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LAFC overcomes first-half deficit to beat 10-man Montreal Impact

Apr 21, 2018; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Impact midfielder Ignacio Piatti (10) reacts after scoring his third goal against the Los Angeles FC during the first half at Stade Saputo. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

MONTREAL — LAFC scored four unanswered goals in the second half to finish a six-game road trip on a high note with a wild 5-3 win over the Montreal Impact on Saturday at Stade Saputo.

Impact star Ignacio Piatti scored a hat trick to give Montreal a 3-1 lead in the first half, but eventually the hosts couldn’t cope with having to play most of the game down a man. Defender Victor Cabrera earned a red card in the 31st minute for a challenge in the penalty area.

It was an emotional game for LAFC captain Laurent Ciman, who returned to Montreal for the first time since being traded away during the offseason. Ciman scored the only goal for LAFC in the first half, a long-range free kick, and the home crowd applauded for his effort.

In the second half, goals from Benny Feilhaber, Carlos Vela and Latif Blessing, as well as an own goal from the Impact defender Jukka Raitala, helped LAFC surge past the Impact.

The win saw LAFC improve to 4-2-0, an impressive record given that all those games were played on the road. Now LAFC gets to return home to play at its brand-new Banc of California stadium.

Outside a loud and festive LAFC locker room, manager Bob Bradley said he was happy that his expansion side was able to end their road trip on a positive note and to win the game in a manner they’ve yet to achieve.

“That’s a new page in our history book: to come back and finish a game like that,” Bradley said. “So for the players at the end we want to celebrate.”

Despite the win, Bradley also admitted he didn’t like the way his team started the game. LAFC had no answer for Piatti in the first half, who was given a lot of room to run at the LAFC defense.

It only took nine minutes for Piatti the open the scoring. The LAFC net was left vacant after goalkeeper Tyler Miller dived to clear a dangerous cross from Montreal midfielder Alejandro Silva. But Miller’s intervention only cleared the ball as far as Piatti, and the Argentine blasted high under the bar.

With so much space, Piatti was a constant menace. Seven minutes later, he took on LAFC’s defense by himself, dribbled past two defenders and finally was taken down by Miller. But the official handed Miller a yellow card and the Impact were awarded a penalty. Piatti went to Miller’s right. The goalkeeper lunged in the right direction, but Piatti’s shot was perfectly placed.

 

LAFC also created chances. A free kick in the 24th minute was a little out of range for star forward Carlos Vela, but not for Ciman, who sent a bullet into the top corner. It was the kind of free-kick attempt he tried several times in Montreal without success.

“On free kicks like this, it’s either going in the net or in the stands, so sometimes you take a risk and sometimes it goes your way,” Ciman said. “Before the game, after the game, Montreal will always be in my heart for sure, but now I have to look forward.”

The Impact made things worse for themselves, as Cabrera was sent off for a challenge on Marco Ureña in the penalty box, giving LAFC a penalty kick. Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush, who made several saves throughout the game, was able to parry Ureña’s low attempt.

Despite being down a man, Piatti managed to score a third goal just two minutes before the end of the first half, catching the LAFC backline high up the field. Defender Jukka Raitala delivered a well-weighted pass into space and Piatti one-timed the bouncing ball past Miller.

“Piatti is an excellent player,” Bradley said. “In the first half, in different situations, we don’t step up and so we allowed too much space between our defenders and our midfielders and the way they started out playing with the attacking midfielders going out to the half spaces and Piatti having freedom to float around, we weren’t aggressive enough and we weren’t tight enough, and we paid for it.”

The second half was a different story. LAFC closed the central channels, kept possession, and pinned the Impact back in their half.

In the 52nd minute, the Impact failed to clear their lines and Benny Feilhaber scored from close range, his second goal of the season.

Just five minutes later, LAFC equalized on a corner kick. Vela’s delivery landed in the center of the box, where a sliding Raitala tried to clear but instead poked the ball into his own net.

With the Impact looking vulnerable at the back, a winner for the visitors seemed inevitable. And in the 83rd minute, the breakthrough arrived. A rash challenge from Daniel Lovitz led to a penalty kick. Vela stepped up and converted. Bush, who was diving to his left, got a piece of the Mexican’s shot, but the ball still trickled in.

In the 89th minute, Latif Blessing bagged the insurance goal. On what would typically be a routine save, Bush couldn’t keep the shoot from going through his legs.

The Impact were booed off the field by their home fans at the end, while LAFC celebrated. 

“I think we’re growing week by week,” Bradley said. “You see some real character and leadership. Today the mentality was key. There was a lot of belief at half time that this was a game that we would still win.”

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