With the Supporters’ Shield secured, Los Angeles Football Club shifted its focus onto the MLS Cup as they continued to finish out the regular season with a bout against Minnesota FC. A stellar performance from Pablo Sisniega and a record-tying score from Carlos Vela allowed LAFC to return home with another point following a 1-1 draw at Allianz Field on Sunday.
The first half was fairly quiet, with LAFC dominating proceedings but mostly offering speculative chances, from the likes of Brian Rodriguez, Diego Rossi and Vela. Though LAFC had dominated possession with a 64-36 advantage and won the shot battle 10 to 6 by halftime, they went into the tunnel at halftime knotted at 0-0.
Just a minute into the second half, Minnesota found its best opportunity when halftime substitution Angelo Rodriguez took a touch to beat Eddie Segura on a 50-50 ball. With only Sisniega to beat, Sisniega came out to close the angle and was able to stick out a leg when Rodriguez shot to save it for a corner kick.
Rodriguez came back with another over-the-top opportunity in the 56th minute when a long ball from the defensive line set him up for a shot with only Sisniega to beat. Segura did a great job tracking back to pressure Rodriguez into the shot, but Sisniega’s save tipping the ball with his left bicep was a remarkable reaction to keep the game tied.
LAFC continued to control most of the possession, but it was mostly Minnesota that continued to find the scoring opportunities. In the 62nd minute, cross came into LAFC’s box from the right side and Rodriguez high-pointed the ball with a header on net that took a full-stretch, parallel dive from Sisniega to keep out. Impressively, Sisniega even caught the shot with both hands before hitting the ground.
While LAFC went nearly 20 minutes into the second half before making a clear chance of their own, a save forced on Vito Mannone in the 67th minute perhaps put LAFC into gear, as Carlos Vela would score his 31st goal on the year in the 70th minute. Rodriguez dribbled down to the back line before being dispossessed. The loose ball fell to the feet of Rossi atop the box, who then turned and gave it to Vela on the right side of the 18-yard line.
Vela took that patented touch to tee up a left-footed shot that curled around a frozen Mannone and into the bottom left corner to tie the MLS single-season scoring record.
Just three minutes later, Brian Rodriguez was sent on a phenomenal long-ball run by Atuesta. After a series of feigns and cuts inside, Rodriguez ripped a shot that beat Mannone but hit the upper right corner and out for a corner.
Minnesota then quickly came back to earn a free kick from about 40 yards out in the 75th minute. A delivery into the box came from the free kick and Michael Boxall found himself unmarked behind the Los Angeles line before heading the ball over the charging Sisniega to tie the game.
Sisniega’s heroics kept the game knotted at 1-1in the 84th minute. The ball fell to Rodriguez yet again, and again, he took a shot that was miraculously saved by a charging Sisniega. It deflected off of him and bad towards Rodriguez, but he was off-balance and the ball took another deflection out for a goal kick.
Mohamed El-Munir came on to replace Diego Palacios, who made his MLS debut. Palacios did very well defending and pushing up to assist the attack for almost a full game in his debut. He even went down with what seemed to be a thigh injury towards the end of the first half and was able to push through to continue playing for about another 40 minutes in the second half, although he broke the offside trap on Minnesota’s equalizer.
It would not make a big difference in the end as three minutes of extra time were not enough for either team to find a game-winner. Now at 69 points, LAFC will face its final opponent of the regular season when they host Colorado next Sunday.
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