LOS ANGELES — The first regular season of LAFC soccer came to an end at Banc of California stadium Sunday. Despite a commanding performance from Diego Rossi, who notched two goals in 10 minutes, the team struggled to translate possession into goals, settling for a 2-2 tie.
“There’s a lot of little football things for me on a day like today that made the difference,” head coach Bob Bradley said. “I think that we’re a good team but we’re looking for a little more consistency when it really counts to become a great team and we get a chance to finish strong next week and when it’s all said and done, see what that means for playoffs.”
The first goal came in the opening five minutes, featuring the on-fire connection between Carlos Vela and Rossi. Vela collected the ball at the top of the box, hesitating for a half second before slotting a pass to split two defenders and give Rossi a point-blank opening on the keeper. The 20-year-old finished smoothly, giving the home team a 1-0 lead.
⚽️📽️ Diego… ROSSI!!!
— LAFC (@LAFC) October 21, 2018
Rossi wasn’t done, however. Less than 10 minutes later, Vela set up Aaron Kovar deep in the box for a perfect cross. The pass flew errantly, rebounding off a pair of Vancouver defenders, but Rossi streaked in to clean up the bounce and pound a shot into the net for a brace.
The goal was Rossi’s 12th of the season, placing him second in total goals on the team, only one behind Vela, who also has recorded 13 assists on the season.
⚽️📽️ GOAL Rossi!!!
— LAFC (@LAFC) October 21, 2018
With the home team handily ahead, the game quickly became chippy. Vela was bodied in the box for a no-call, and Adama Diomande was knocked head over heels several times in the open field. Benny Feilhaber was booked for a yellow card, and a trip in the box on Yordy Reyna earned Vancouver a penalty kick to cut the lead to 2-1. But despite the physical play, LAFC continued to control the pace of the game, dominating 69 percent of possession and taking eight shots on frame in the first half alone.
But all it took was one strike to level the score, and that came in the 65th minute when Jordan Mutch stutter-stepped several yards outside the box and blasted a scorching shot into the top right corner. The ball ghosted inches above Tyler Miller’s gloves, hitting the net for a golazo that sucked the air out of Banc of California stadium. With 25 minutes left in the game, the team had somehow gone from complete domination of the match to an unsteady tie.
LAFC became increasingly aggressive, leveling shots in the second half, most of which came in the final third of play as the Vancouver defense broke down and fell into desperately physical play, picking up two yellow cards in the process. But the shots simply weren’t coming for the home team. The ball sailed wide and high, bounced off the cross bar and lucky defenders.
With seconds remaining in stoppage time, a curving header off a corner kick fell right into the keeper’s hands. The whistle split the air in the stadium only moments later, bringing the team’s regular season at home to an end.
“We were trying the whole match to get that third one,” Rossi said. “We had many chances to get it and win the game. We definitely had our chances.
The tie left LAFC no worse for the wear, retaining its No. 3 spot in the Western Conference rankings. But with one regular-season game left against Sporting KC — a road match that will decide the final positioning for the playoffs — the team’s focus quickly shifted away from the lackluster finish and towards the season’s finale.
“For me it’s a bad tie, it’s two points that we let get away,” Bradley said. “We’ve done it before this year, if you do it late in the year, obviously it feels worse. We got to still make sure that within the group there’s a real sense of optimism because we still get the chance to go to Kansas City next week and win the conference.