SAN JOSE, Calif. — With a large contingent of traveling fans on hand, Carlos Vela scored a hat trick in leading Los Angeles Football Club to a 5-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium Saturday afternoon.
As well as Vela’s heroics, LAFC enjoyed goals from Diego Rossi and Steven Beitashour in the rout. The 5-0 scoreline matched the worst loss in San Jose’s MLS tenure, suffered against FC Dallas back in 2014, and was the largest margin of victory for LAFC in its brief history.
“For us, it was a very good win,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said. “Our preparation this week was important because it’s still a different kind of game where you have to have some ideas in terms of movement. I think the guys handled it really well, created a lot of chances, so on that end, fantastic.”
It was as much a dominating performance from LAFC (4-0-1, 13 points) as it was an embarrassing display by San Jose. The Earthquakes (0-4-0, 0 points) have now lost four consecutive games to open a season for the first time in franchise history, having been outscored 14-2. They were never really in this one.
“At first, we played to press the opponent in a certain way, and in the first play, they had their first scoring chance.” Earthquakes coach Matias Almeyda said through a translator. “Their goal was like a bucket of ice. There is the virtue and determination of the opponent, as well as speed and quality. They have an excellent football strategy, and that’s why they were so superior to us.”
The top team in the Western Conference entering the weekend, LAFC outplayed the Quakes from the opening whistle. Setting the tone for the visitors was Rossi and Vela, who consistently gave the host’s central defensive all sorts of trouble. In the fifth minute, after picking the pocket of Judson at midfield, Rossi raced in on goal, only for Daniel Vega to make an acrobatic save.
The San Jose goalkeeper would not fare as well minutes later, as a ball over the top of the defensive line forced him out of his area to clear the ball. It didn’t happen, as Vega whiffed widely, and Vela was there to walk the loose ball into the net to make it 1-0. It was a bit of hotdogging by the LAFC captain, but it was well appreciated by the strong visiting supporters’ presence that filled the nearby corner of Avaya Stadium.
Latif Blessing had a golden opportunity to double the lead on yet another ball through the center of the field. He rounded Vega in the box, but his weak effort was cleared off the line by a sliding Guram Kashia.
LAFC would get their second goal in the 26th minute, when Beitashour, a native of San Jose, poked home a brilliant feed by Eduard Atuesta inside the area. The goal touched off a celebration by the traveling 3252 supporters that could felt throughout the stadium, especially within Beitashour’s family which attends every game the former Earthquakes defender plays in the Bay Area.
“That was a special one,” Beitashour shared after the game. “In 10 years, my dad has never asked me to score for him. He’s always told me to play well, play smart, play hard. That was the first time he asked me to score for him, so that was for him.”
To complete LAFC’s perfect half of soccer, Vela delivered goal number three two minutes into first half stoppage time. A quick counterattack finished with the captain’s second goal of the game, as Rossi beat Tommy Thompson on the left side and squared the ball to Vela for the easy finish.
The stats at intermission were as one-sided as the scoreline, as LAFC outshot the Quakes 10-1. In another sign of the visitor’s dominating game plan, Chris Wondolowski, the lone forward for San Jose, had to make almost as many defensive actions (5) as he did touches on offense (6).
The Earthquakes brought in Danny Hoesen and Jackson Yueill to start the second half, looking to energize the attack, but LAFC was nonplussed. Already cruising to their fourth victory of the season, the visitors started to tack on a few extra goals.
Vela completed his hat trick in the 66th minute, curling a trademark shot from outside the box over Vega and into the far corner of the net following a long spell of attack. It was a moment of brilliance for the early frontrunner for MLS MVP.
Mar 30, 2019; San Jose, CA, USA; Los Angeles FC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye (14) warms up before the game against the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
“Carlos is a good player,” Bradley said. “And this year he’s had such a good way of moving. Instead of just coming back for every ball, he’s found a really good balance of being on the move more, and as a team, we’ve done a better job of finding ways to get him moving forward and that’s very important.”
Rossi, who was a handful for the Quakes defense all night long, added a goal to his earlier assist two minutes later, capping LAFC’s record-scoring afternoon. Rossi would have added a second in the 80th minute, if not for a stellar save from Vega.
LAFC completed their shutout with some efficient defending over the last quarter hour of the match, and by the final whistle, most of the home crowd had already departed.
“I want the San Jose players to be versatile players,” Almeyda said. “They know they have the freedom to play and take risks, and their only obligation when they lose the ball is leave their soles on the pitch and recover the ball. The moment we are going through right now requires rebellion, and I am not happy with this moment.”
San Jose will have to recover quickly, as it will host the Portland Timbers next weekend at Avaya Stadium, still in search of its first points of the campaign. LAFC head to the east coast to meet D.C. United at Audi Field next Saturday.