LAFC knew they needed a big day to manage a result against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park, but they made it even harder work than they needed to, when Tristan Blackmon’s red card put them down a man for more than a half-hour.
In the end, they couldn’t hold on to a 1-0 lead, as Sporting came roaring back while up a man and won 2-1, canceling out Kim Moon-hwan’s debut goal in MLS.
LAFC brought Blackmon in to start in a three-man central defense from the start, with Carlos Vela going to the bench and Danny Musovski starting up top alongside Diego Rossi. Tomas Romero kept his place in goal.
Sporting had an early look, with a cross by Daniel Salloi getting the ball on the doorstep of the 6-yard box, but his cross didn’t hit the right man and Jaylin Lindsey’s angled shot was over the mark, saving LAFC’s blushes.
The first 20-plus minutes were a grind for both teams, but LAFC opened the scoring in the 24th minute against the run of play, with Kim opening his account with a quick chop and finish with his left foot.
Just before halftime, Romero whiffed in trying to punch out a corner kick service from Sporting, but Ilie Sanchez’s header right behind Romero was not on frame and LAFC escaped again.
At the other end, Eduard Atuesta had a free kick for LAFC from the left flank that did not miss the goal by very much. He had another attempt in first-half stoppage time, but the second time around it was on target, but SKC goalkeeper Tim Melia caught it easily.
The teams went into the break with LAFC leading 1-0. It was a nice edge but there was tons of work to do with 45 minutes to play and LAFC accustomed to dropping leads this season.
Bob Bradley brought on Mark-Anthony Kaye for Jose Cifuentes and Corey Baird for Musovski to start the second half. Baird nearly drew a penalty in the opening minute of the half, but the referee waived it off, before Baird had a one-timer strike that forced a point-blank save from Melia’s face.
Vela entered the game in the 57th minute for Blessing, as the storm clouds opened and the rain started to pour. Moments later, Johnny Russell nearly scored on a cross/shot, but it was just off.
Then the game flipped, in a bad way for LAFC, with Blackmon pulling back Salloi on the edge of LAFC’s box and referee Chris Penso giving him a red card in the 58th minute.
Not Pass of the Week from Blackmon.— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) June 26, 2021
Definition of a hospital ball & poor phase change. You give one away like this and you can't just fixate on the ball, you have to immediately snap back into structured defense. pic.twitter.com/VxtZ2CF3PN
It didn’t take long for Sporting to tie up the game, with the game opening wide up and Alan Pulido pouncing on a rebound off Marco Farfan in the middle of the 18-yard box and Kansas City leveled it at 1-1 in the 61st minute.
Romero had a huge save in the 78th minute on a bang-bang header by Felipe Hernandez, to keep the game on level terms, LAFC under major pressure as the minutes ticked down.
LAFC brought in Bryce Duke for Rossi in the 82nd minute and Mamadou Fall made his MLS debut at the same time for Kim.
While it looked like LAFC may hold on for a draw, Sporting got the go-ahead goal courtesy of Salloi in the 87th minute.
Vela had a good look deep in second-half stoppage time, but his shot was off target and that was it for LAFC’s faint hopes of a late comeback.
Obviously it’s hard to win on the road when playing down a man, but this has to be a huge disappointment for LAFC to take a lead against the run of play and then fall apart in the end. I think this team largely played really smart, but it was always going to be hard to win in Kansas City while also playing a third of the game down a man, and it was too high a hill to climb. That’s why it’s disappointing, because they could have won if they had been that bit smarter in the moment.
LAFC are scheduled to be back in action next Saturday, when they’ll head to Utah to take on Real Salt Lake. RSL has proven to be a tricky opponent in the past, and they’ve had a mixed start to the season, so we’ll see what happens.
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