Laurent Ciman hadn’t played for Los Angeles Football Club since May 26. That’s 360 minutes of game time without LAFC’s captain, absent because of his obligations to the Belgian national team.
Ciman, the last player cut by Belgium before the World Cup, returned to LAFC last week, and in his return to the lineup Saturday, it took him four minutes to reacquaint himself with fans.
His shot cleared Columbus’ wall off a free kick and hooked into the bottom right corner of the net, just past the arms of goalkeeper Jon Kempin.
It gave LAFC an early lead that was never relinquished in its 2-0 win over the Crew at Banc of California Stadium.
“His free kicks have been a great surprise,” coach Bob Bradley said. “In certain situations, he’s capable of coming up with something that’s different.”
LAFC (8-4-3) continued what Ciman started four minutes later when forward Latif Blessing approached the net and unleashed a shot that was blocked and sent right back to him.
He gathered it and, after a series of taps near the goal, Adama Diomande got behind the defense and ended up with the ball on his foot.
He poked it past Kempin, this time to the left, sending fans into a frenzy and Columbus (7-5-6) into a rage.
Columbus’ Federico Higuain and Luis Argudo sprinted toward the nearest referee with their arms outstretched, both in disbelief that offside hadn’t been called.
LAFC, meanwhile, celebrated while gold and purple smoke poured from behind the opposite goal.
“We haven’t had a start like that at home,” said Bradley, who arrived at his postgame news conference sporting a smile. “That was a good feeling.”
Diamonde, who has played only three games with LAFC, already has scored three goals. But he said he’s still not playing his best.
“Hopefully I will get better results,” he said. “I’m not there yet physically.”
LAFC remained energized to start the second half. But little happened.
A Columbus goal was called back because a player was offside.
Then there was a sequence in the 79th minute when LAFC forward Diego Rossi emerged from a group of three defenders and sprinted toward the goal on to a pass to Diomande, who couldn’t control it. There also was an open LAFC shot saved by Kempin in the 86th minute.
Luckily for LAFC’s fans, little had to happen after the two early goals. The beat of drums and chants echoed throughout the stadium following LAFC’s fifth shutout of its inaugural season.
The win marked LAFC’s second straight in MLS play and its fourth straight overall.
It came in spite of the fact that three LAFC players — the most of any MLS team — still are in the World Cup.
Leading goal-scorer Carlos Vela, who is playing for Mexico, still found a way to energize the crowd.
His penalty kick against South Korea was shown at halftime and got fans, many of them waving Mexican flags, onto their feet.
“All of us were thrilled — again — to see Carlos playing so well,” Bradley said.