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Black & Gold Derby: Columbus Crew SC 0, LAFC 3

Visiting LAFC grinds all 90 minutes to earn convincing victory in Columbus.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Columbus Crew SC Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Football Club grinded out a 3-0 victory over the Crew Saturday night in Columbus. Though this continued the now eight-game unbeaten streak, late goals from Adama Diomande and Carlos Vela secured LAFC’s first win in the last three weeks.

Columbus came into Saturday preparing to play their third game in the last eight days. Though LAFC might normally expect to be fresher and in better form against an opponent enduring such a busy part of their schedule, the Crew were able to hand a big 3-1 loss to the second place LA Galaxy on Wednesday.

LAFC started with their lineup at full strength again but struggled to find their rhythm early on. Only after the 12th minute, once Los Angeles had controlled 62 percent of possession and created a corner kick, did Mark-Anthony Kaye take the game’s first shot. It was immediately deflected by a defender and went out for LAFC’s second corner.

A third corner came in the 18th minute after another shot from Kaye was saved. Vela looped in a cross that was punched away by Columbus goalkeeper Joe Bendik. The ball took one bounce before Eduard Atuesta shot it wide of the net on a half-volley.

In the 24th minute, Kaye chested a lofted ball down in the box but it was scooped up by Bendik. Bendik ran forward towards the edge of the box. Right as he was about to roll the ball back into play, Kaye came from behind and stuck his foot in to try and strip the ball away. Kaye was immediately whistled for the dangerous play, but luckily walked away without a booking.

Three minutes later, Columbus earned the game’s first card when Wil Trapp slid late into Vela. After Vela’s shot on the following free kick missed high, Walker Zimmerman stopped the Crew’s counterattack with a bad foul of his own and matched Trapp’s yellow.

Then, in the 37th minute, LAFC found a break-through. Latif Blessing chipped a pass into the box towards a streaking Kaye. Kaye redirected the bouncing pass first-time towards Christian Ramirez who was also behind the defense on the opposite side of the box. But the ball from Kaye that seemed to be a pass ended up bouncing and curling just around a diving Bendik for his third goal on the season to give LAFC the first lead.

Just a minute later, Atuesta sent Vela on a long run down the right side. Vela dribbled the ball into the right corner of the box and sent a low cross along the six-yard line. Diego Rossi was double-teamed cutting to the net, but the Columbus defenders muffed the first touch, and Rossi ripped a shot point-blank. Bendik reacted by sticking out a big paw to his left, sending the ball over the crossbar.

Columbus turned the ball over near midfield in the 43rd minute when an errant pass was intercepted by Kaye. After three or four passes between Kaye, Atuesta, and Blessing, the ball came back to Kaye. He quickly passed the ball on, but Columbus’s David Guzman clipped him from behind and earned the Crew’s second booking.

After a slow struggle for control in the early parts of the first half, LAFC had maintained a 54-46 possession advantage, earned four corners, and created nine shots while limiting Columbus to just one by halftime. As more teams start to key on LAFC’s offensive tactics and take away the early goals they enjoyed in the first few games of the season, it is impressive to see Los Angeles continue to find new ways to play their game and produce goals.

Columbus started the second half with two quick shots that both missed. This new increase in urgency was momentarily stifled when Pedro Santos tripped Rossi and earned the team’s third yellow in the 54th minute.

The Crew continued to find more shots on net, however. In the 59th minute, Robinho beat Beitashour down the left side. He crossed the ball back towards the top of the box where Santos ripped a line-drive shot. Miller quickly dove and strongly blocked the speeding ball down in front of him.

Diomande came on as LAFC’s first substitution to replace Ramirez in the 65th minute.

Los Angeles seemed again to take more control of the game after this point, but Columbus scared them with a potential equalizer in the 74th minute. After Kaye’s clearing attempt was blocked by the referee, The Crew pounced on the loose ball and found Gyasi Zardes with only Miller to beat in the right side of the box. Zardes’ shot squeezed under the extended arm of the diving Miller and into the net, but Zardes was whistled offside.

With ten minutes remaining in normal time, Columbus had come back from an unproductive first half and created six more shots and four more corner kicks. LAFC’s possession remained at 54 percent. Other than Santos’ shot early in the second half and Zardes’ offsides run, the Crew hardly pressured Miller.

In fact, rather than equalizing, Columbus gifted LAFC their clinching second goal. A bouncing ball behind the Crew’s defense was chased down by defender Jonathan Mensah. Bendik also came out of his net to charge the ball, but Mensah mistakingly headed the ball over Bendik. Substitute Josh Perez chased down the missed pass and volleyed a shot on frame, but it hit the post and came out. Luckily, it fell to the feet of Diomande, who finally tucked home the goal in the bottom right corner to go up 2-0.

Practically before LAFC could finish celebrating, Vela went on an amazing solo run from the right side of midfield down to the top of the box. After spinning away from his initial defender and then splitting two more from the next level, Vela put the ball on his favored left side and curled home the third goal around an outstretched Bendik in the upper left corner. Vela added to his league-leading total of now 12 goals.

Saturday’s victory showed LAFC’s ability to grind out a win and earn their goals. For the past month or so, it seems Los Angeles has not been able to find their quick, early goals so often, but to push for nearly a full 90 minutes to find that second goal and come out with a victory speaks to the growing ability of this team.

Now comfortably five points ahead of the Galaxy again, LAFC will go into their second short week of the year and return to The Banc on Thursday night to face FC Dallas.

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