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Rossi, Vela dynamic duo fuels LAFC’s league-leading scoring spree

Sep 1, 2018; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Los Angeles FC forward Diego Rossi (9) celebrates his goal with forward Carlos Vela (10) against Toronto FC at BMO Field. (Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

LOS ANGELES — From the beginning last season, Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi have always been the vital one-two punch for LAFC.

Rossi attacks from the left. Vela from the right. They rarely have high-scoring games at once, but when Rossi is hot, Vela is more than happy to dish for him, and vice versa. When they’re both able to get on the boards, the tandem is almost impossible to combat.

That was more than evident in the team’s last two games, when LAFC outscored San Jose and D.C. United for a combined 9-0 goalscoring streak. In the first, a 5-0 rout of the Earthquakes, Vela notched a hat trick and Rossi served up a goal. In the 4-0 blowout of D.C. United this weekend, the roles were reversed, with Vela scoring a lone goal and Rossi adding his first hat trick of the season.

“Sometimes you have a day where you’re sharp and you make the other team pay,” head coach Bob Bradley said after the game against D.C. United. “It’s a game that we feel good about because it’s never easy to come across the country and play a match. We feel like we handled it well.”

With Saturday’s win, LAFC now leads the league in goals scored with 19 over the span of six games. Averaging 3.2 goals per game, LAFC isn’t really close to anyone else — the next leading scorer in the Western Conference is Seattle, with 11 goals, and overall is Toronto FC, with a total of 12. Together with their combined 13 goals on the season, Rossi and Vela have outscored any other MLS team on their own. For both of these players, half of their respective goals were assisted by the other.

“We have a good connection with all the teammates, but we know that Carlos has something special for us,” Rossi said. “He’s a good player and he’s important, but we have a connection with all the teammates.”

Of course, the team was helped to this goal advantage with a 5-0 win over San Jose, a team that was winless at the time and allowed the second-most goals in MLS (71 total) at the end of last season. Yet the 4-0 performance against D.C. United was different. Ahead of the game, D.C. was 3-1-0 and jockeying for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The team’s defense allowed a single goal in the first four games of the season, and its backline was expected to provide a formidable test for the LAFC attack.

Instead, Vela and Rossi quickly carved up that formerly stalwart defense, capping a brace with Rossi’s back-to-back goals in the first half to silence the crowd and settle the game before the teams played the first 45 minutes. By the time Wayne Rooney earned his red card in the second half, the disadvantage — and lost of the team’s offensive leader — was an almost unnecessary nail in the coffin for the game. 

Despite the high-scoring finish, however, LAFC emerged from the game more focused on its errors than its goals. Vela, for instance, couldn’t shake the disappointment of missing a penalty kick in the 12th minute, even though he recovered to score only three minutes later. Bradley refused to suggest that the team’s back-to-back blowouts reflected any kind of statement made on the league, instead pointing to the team’s choppy second half and difficulties in maintaining ball possession.

Ultimately, the team remains focused on the fact that only six games of this season have been played so far. With a long road ahead, Bradley, Vela and Rossi made it clear that there’s nothing to celebrate just yet.

“We are enjoying it,” Vela said. “When you are on the field and you see your teammate enjoying it, you are enjoying it. Everything is in the right direction. We have to be ambitious, we have to work hard. This is the only way to get better.”

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