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Best Offense Beats Best Defense: D.C. United 0, LAFC 4

Diego Rossi drops a hat trick on the East’s top team.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at D.C. United
Vela sizing up his shot on his winning goal.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Football Club stomped D.C. United, 4-0, off the back of a Diego Rossi hat trick in a match between the two best teams in each conference Saturday afternoon at Audi Field. The second hat trick for LAFC in as many weeks, Los Angeles saw through the statement shutout victory to stay atop the Western Conference (and league standings) with a now 5-0-1 record.

Two teams atop their respective conferences; two different ways of going about it. Coming into Saturday, LAFC led the league in goals scored with 15 while D.C. United had conceded just one in their first four matches. In the end, the most prolific offense and stingiest defense collided, only for the offensive team to take immediate control with a cool 3-0 lead before halftime.

LAFC did not make a single change to the starting lineup from last week’s convincing 5-0 win in San Jose. Head coach Bob Bradley seems to have found a lineup that is clicking in all the right ways.

In the 10th minute, Jordan Harvey chased down a long through ball at the end of the left wing and one-timed a cross across the ground. D.C.’s Leonardo Jara blocked the cross with his outstretched arm on a sliding effort and conceded a penalty.

Up to this point in 2019, D.C. United had never trailed. Carlos Vela stepped up to take the shot. He gave it some air and pace to the right, but D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid guessed correctly to make the save. Vela chased down the rebound’s first touch with another shot that beat Hamid but again did not make it to the net when the near post sent it back. Vela again would be able to try to send the ball across for a final effort before it was blocked out for a corner kick.

Vela would, however, eventually continue his hot scoring success this season with his league-leading seventh goal of the season, three goals ahead of the next highest scorer, D.C.’s Wayne Rooney.

In the 15th minute, Adama Diomande’s pressure on D.C.’s back line forced a giveaway. He quickly gave the ball to Vela, who pressed up the right side of the box on a 3-on-2 fast break with Mark-Anthony Kaye and Diego Rossi. With both D.C. defenders unable to commit to a challenge on-ball, Vela cut inside onto his favored left foot and lifted his patented shot into the upper left corner past a frozen Hamid.

Unfortunately for Diomande, he went to the ground hurt for the second time due to a hamstring strain in the 25th minute and limped off to be replaced by Christian Ramirez.

After LAFC forced another takeaway in the middle third just two minutes later and Blessing and Rossi connected for two quick passes that allowed their attack to turn upfield. Rossi sent Vela wide down the right side with plenty of space. Vela took his time setting up a cross which was easily placed home from the six-yard box in the bottom right corner by the streaking Rossi.

In a matter of minutes, D.C.’s only deficit of the season became twice as much to make up. But they would come back in the following three minutes with a cross that ended with Rooney heading a shot off the crossbar and free-kick cross that after a few in-box passes by D.C. ended up bouncing into Tyler Miller’s hands.

LAFC went back to work. After a decent build-up to establish position in the attacking third, Kaye forced another turnover near midfield. He immediately turned downfield and found Rossi down the left side of the box with a plethora of space. Rossi one-timed a curler around the diving Hamid and tucked it inside the far post to give LAFC a 3-0 lead.

Despite nearly identical statistics between the two teams by the 40th minute, LAFC did enjoy a 10-2 shot advantage. D.C. would not make a substitution until the 57th minute.

Without a change from either side during halftime, the second half continued to see things get easier for LAFC.

After D.C. United missed an opportunity to score off a corner kick, they lost their captain for the remaining 40 minutes.

Rooney lost the ball near midfield and as Rossi came into possession of the loose ball, Rooney threw out a studs-up slide that clawed down the outside of Rossi’s right leg. Rooney was originally shown a yellow card, which was eventually upgraded to a red after VAR review in the 52nd minute.

Now playing with 10 men, DC United suddenly found their best opportunity all game. A quick cross that was chested down at the top of the box ended with a shot from Lucas Rodriguez that hit the outside of the netting.

Shortly after, in the 54th minute, Jose Moreno carelessly tripped down Latif Blessing and earned the game’s first yellow.

A free kick conceded by Steven Beitashour in the 57th minute resulted in a dangerous opportunity for D.C. The resulting cross was mishandled by a jumping Miller. D.C. put the loose ball on net twice: the first saved by Miller and the second redirected off the goal line by Beitashour.

A long ball sent down the left side was chased down by Rossi. D.C.’s Frederic Brillant took down Rossi, receiving D.C.’s second yellow. Eduard Atuesta’s ensuing shot off the set piece in the 67th minute after a brief VAR review was inches away from perfection as it bounced back off the top corner of the crossbar past an outstretched Hamid.

At this point, LAFC had enjoyed their three-goal lead for longer than it took them to make it. Bradley decided to give Harvey an early rest, replacing him with Mohamed El-Munir to make his LAFC debut. El-Munir was traded to Los Angeles from Orlando City in December.

In the 71st minute, a D.C. United cross was again fumbled by the charging Miller. The loose ball resulted in multiple shots that were all again blocked by LAFC defenders. Center back Walker Zimmerman finally headed the last lofting ball out for a corner to relieve the pressure momentarily.

Then, in the 76th minute, Junior Moreno was surrounded by three pressuring LAFC players in his own defending third. Vela slid in to poke the ball away. The ball rolled to the feet of Blessing, who then sent it to the top of the box to Ramirez, who finally laid it off to the unmarked Rossi on the left side where he beat Hamid low and left for the hat trick.

Jumping for a 50-50 ball in the 80th minute, Miller was undercut and came down hard on his right side. After about a minute of pain before he was able to take the free kick, Bradley used his final substitution and replaced Vela with Adrien Perez.

A Perez giveaway in his own defending third led to a wide open shot from Chris Durkin, who came on for Russell Canouse. Miller comfortably contained the ball as it flew right at him.

The rest of the game continued to go back and forth but with LAFC enjoying a 53-47 possession advantage and a 19-13 shot advantage. DC’s Lucas Rodriguez was shown the third yellow of the game in the 88th minute after taking down Blessing. Each team put a few more shots on net.

LAFC again produced a massive amount of scoring opportunities and capitalized on a great amount of them as well. With 19 goals through six games, there is not another MLS team with more encouraging results. They’ll be back in action next Saturday at The Banc.

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