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Three points in the pocket: LAFC 2, FC Dallas 0

LAFC outlasts late push from Dallas in first end of home-and-home.

MLS: FC Dallas at Los Angeles FC Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Football Club stretched their unbeaten streak to five games with a second win in less than a week after taking down FC Dallas at the Banc Thursday night. Carlos Vela again added to his league-leading goal total (13) and Diego Rossi came through with a late goal to seal it.

LAFC again started with a full strength lineup, but with Eduard Atuesta playing on a yellow card that was earned in the win over Columbus on Saturday.

The match started with both teams fighting for possession in the middle third without having the ball for long enough to form any chances. For the most part, LAFC tried to create, and when Dallas would take the ball away, LAFC’s forward pressure was often too much for Dallas to break into a counterattack.

The first scoring opportunity of the game came in the 10th minute. Latif Blessing was taken down in the attacking third with the ball at his feet. Vela stepped up to take the free kick from about 10 yards outside the box. He took one step and ripped a curling shot headed right for the upper right corner, but it was sent back as it clanged off crossbar.

LAFC continued to build pressure, and by the 20th minute, had held 66 percent of possession, created four shots, and earned three corners. Dallas, still shotless, failed time and time again to break past the initial wave of pressure the Black-and-Gold threw at them. The midfield line of Blessing, Atuesta, and Mark-Anthony Kaye all constantly harassed the ball as a group, disallowing Dallas the time and space to make successful passes.

In the 25th minute, a combination of LAFC passes ended with Jordan Harvey with the ball down the left side of the box. He sent a lower cross backwards right to the feet of Rossi, who was wide open just a couple of yards outside of the six-yard box. Rossi, on his weaker left foot, whiffed on the shot. Vela picked up the loose ball and took a forced shot after another touch but it was blocked, and after another few deflections, Steven Beitashour let it roll past the endline for their fifth corner.

LAFC began to dominate control over the first half, evidenced by doubling their shot count to eight by the 29th minute. Rossi found Kaye on a wide-open run with a chip from just outside the box. Kaye headed a shot down on net that was securely tackled to the ground by Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez.

Five minutes later, Kaye beat a defender down the right side of the box. He turned inside, beating the defender’s sliding tackle. Though Kaye seemed to get clipped, he chose to stay on his feet, chasing the ball towards the endline. Only having time for one touch to redirect it on net, Kaye ripped a shot right at Gonzalez who was at the near post. Gonzalez secured the ball after a few juggles.

Finally, in the 39th minute, LAFC broke through on what would be their 12th shot on the night. Atuesta received the ball from outside the box and played it straight to Vela on the right side of the 18-yard line. Vela turned with the ball, saw that he was unmarked, took a touch to his left, and ripped home a curling shot into the bottom far corner.

By halftime, Dallas had come back to drop LAFC’s possession down to 54 percent. And while LAFC had compiled 14 shots and seven corners, Dallas was still unable to take a single shot and create a corner. Other than finding the coveted second goal, Los Angeles had probably played their most fundamental half this year.

Dallas came out looking like a different team in the second half. By the 60th minute, Dallas had finally found their first three shots, earned their first corner, and even took a 51-49 possession advantage. In the same minute, LAFC head coach Bob Bradley subbed in Adama Diomande in place of Christian Ramirez, sticking with the same game plan that has been executed every since Ramirez took over the starting center forward position.

FC Dallas’s Bryan Acosta earned the game’s first booking after taking down Rossi.

Diomande looked for an immediate impact. In the 68th minute, Blessing beat his defender down the right wing. He crossed the ball into the middle where an open Vela tried to settle the fast-paced ball. Vela’s first touch was off and the ball took one bounce across his body before Diomande stormed in from nowhere. Sprinting down the middle of the box surely to bury the insurance goal, Diomande volleyed the bouncing ball just wide left and out for a goal kick.

Walker Zimmerman earned LAFC’s first yellow card on the following Dallas possession.

Rossi then found himself an opportunity in the 71st minute. Vela received the ball outside the box, turned, and laid it off for Rossi down the left side. Rossi turned inside and ripped a shot that barely curled wide and out of bounds.

Bradley made his second substitution in the 78th minute by putting on Andre Horta in place of Atuesta to avoid any chance of him earning yellow card and consequent suspension. Making only his second appearance this season, Horta was moved to left midfield so that the more experienced Kaye could assume Atuesta’s responsibility in the middle.

Then, in the 85th minute, Diomande found his impact and LAFC’s special second goal on the night. Diomande forced an on-ball turnover on a Dallas defender and tipped the ball away. Vela immediately gave the ball back to Diomande who then only had the keeper to beat. He could have taken his shot, but with Gonzalez rushing him, instead laid it off for Rossi. Rossi placed the ball in the open net, but a whistle for offside stopped any celebration immediately.

After a brief period without play, the referee went to the Video Assistant Referee. The slow-motion showed that the referee’s assistant had put his flag up on Diomande’s run and not Rossi’s. Upon review, Diomande was deemed onside, and the goal was allowed.

Interestingly, the whistle was actually blown before Rossi’s shot crossed the goal line. Regardless, the goal stood and LAFC went up 2-0 with just three minutes of regular time remaining.

Lee Nguyen came on as LAFC’s final substitution for Rossi in the 88th minute. Blessing moved up to left wing to replace Rossi, Horta was moved to right midfield to replace Blessing, and Nguyen was slotted in at left midfield to replace Horta.

Los Angeles enjoyed a multitude of chances in six minutes of extra time as Dallas seemed out of gas. The ninth victory on the year, LAFC becomes the first team to 30 points and sits five points clear of second-place Seattle. Los Angeles will have a short time to enjoy the win as they will replay Thursday’s opponent in Dallas again on Sunday night.

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