Tag Archives: LAFC

LAFC kicks off Rivalry Week with 4-0 win over San Jose

Official LAFC Reporter

fBy Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The Los Angeles Football Club is closing in to win their first-ever Supporters’ Shield thanks to goals from Diego Rossi, Carlos Vela, and Josh Perez. Together, they have kept the club atop of the standings and undefeated at home, most recently in a 4-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes.

Despite having an excellent outcome, the match did not kick off to a strong start as poor passing from the home team led the Quakes to the door of LAFC’s goal. Fortunately, the shot went wide.

A breakthrough came just six minutes in with Rossi getting the early lead off the rebound. Eduard Atuesta sent a through ball from the midfield, landing to Perez. Perez one-timed a curled shot towards the far post that was saved, but Rossi was there to bury it.

The nightmare began for the visitors as LAFC was awarded the penalty after Anibal Godoy blocked Lee Nguyen’s shot with his hand and was called for a handball. Carlos Vela stepped up to convert, and score his 25th career goal, after VAR confirmed the penalty. 

In the 37th minute, Vako went to score at close range, but Jordan Harvey made a diving save in front of Miller to deny the Quakes’ player.

And then… insanity broke out.

If the match wasn’t already crazy enough, the Quakes’ head coach, Matias Almeyda, was visibly distraught as the referee rejected his request to review the play – alleging Harvey committed a hand ball. A similar call awarded LAFC a penalty moments earlier. Kevin Stott ultimately ejected both Almeyda and his translator. After four minutes of protesting, the coach agreed to leave, but not without stopping to yell back at a fan.

In the midst of the spectacle the sidelines, the captain put LAFC up 3-0 in the 41st minute, scoring his 26th career goal.

While LAFC was busy running up the score, San Jose did produce an equal amount of opportunities and Miller came up huge every time.

Early in the second half, Cristian Espinoza found space on the right side of the box and lasered a shot near the post that was firmly blocked out by Miller.

Wearing a protective mask, Mohamed El-Munir came on to replace Harvey in the 62nd minute to make his first appearance since suffering a facial fracture on July 19. The next minute, Adama Diomande subbed on for Rossi. 

The Quakes desperately continued to try to get on the scoreboard but the New Jersey native kept them at bay. Miller made a fingertip save on a Quakes’ shot that clanked off the post in the 78th minute. Guram Kashia pounced on the bouncing rebound but put it over the net for a goal kick.

Josh Perez had a total of five chances throughout the match, and his moment finally came in the 80th minute when the 21-year-old scored his first ever goal for the club off a pass from Mark-Anthony Kaye.

Diomande scored late into stoppage time but the ref called him for a foul and took back the goal. Despite the call, the Black-and-Gold secured another three points, putting them up to a total of 61 points.

The win, without a doubt, gave LAFC even more confidence before they host the LA Galaxy in the second edition of this year’s El Tráfico on Sunday.

Just like how fans were chanting, “We want Carson!” following the win, LAFC is presumably ready with a lineup at full strength. But, is it enough beat Zlatan’s mental antics?

Featured Image: LAFC

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Rivalry Week: LAFC returns home after clinching 2019 playoff spot on the road

Official LAFC Reporter

fBy Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The Los Angeles Football Club is becoming every club’s nightmare.

Carlos Vela and Adama Diomande’s goals helped the club to become the first MLS team to secure a spot in the 2019 playoffs this past weekend as they won on the road, 2-0, over Real Salt Lake.

Now leading the league with 52 points and a 42 goal differential, the Black-and-Gold return home to host the San Jose Earthquakes as part of MLS Heineken Rivalry Week.

LAFC has dominated the series against the Quakes; causing an earthquake in San Jose during their first meeting this year in March by winning 5-0.

Walker Zimmerman will miss the action after being ejected from the last match against Real Salt Lake. Tristian Blackmon will likely fill the role again. Additionally, Mark-Anthony Kaye will face suspension due to yellow card accumulation if carded in tomorrow’s match.

Bob Bradley has done very little to change the starting lineup this season, given the club has made some major roster moves in the recent weeks – with recently loaning three players to two USL teams, respectively: Dejan Jakovic and Rodolfo Zelaya to Las Vegas Lights FC, and Peter-Lee Vassell to Phoenix Rising FC.

Vela continues his historic season by setting a new single-season record of 39 combined goals and assists. The captain has made MLS history with 24 goals and 15 assists, with nine games remaining.

The Quakes will visit the Banc after suffering back-to-back losses, and will have a full roster to choose from as no players are on the injury report. LAFC remains the only team in the league to go undefeated at home and will look to retain that record tomorrow.

The Black-and-Gold will conclude their mini Californian tournament as they host the LA Galaxy on Sunday, August 25 – for the fifth installment of El Tráfico.

Featured Image: @LAFC

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Player Spotlight: Steven Beitashour blends sport and culture in Los Angeles

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Once a ball boy for the San Jose Earthquakes, LAFC’s defender Steven Beitashour is thankful to now be a part of a club in his home state that continuously supports him not only as a player, but also supports his connection to his Iranian heritage.

The San Jose native dreamed of becoming a soccer player after his father – a former San Francisco State University player – introduced him to the game and took him to his first practice at four years old.

Beitashour, born to Iranian parents, is an Iranian international and strongly identifies with his heritage. While there have been a handful of Iranian players in MLS over the history of the league, Beitashour has had the longest and most successful career to date, winning the MLS Cup with Toronto FC in 2017, and the Supporters’ Shield with San Jose in 2012. Additionally, he played in the 2014 World Cup with the Iranian National Football Team and made an appearance at the 2012 MLS All-Stars.

In 2010, Beitashour received the opportunity to play for his childhood team – after the Quakes selected him in the second round of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. His family supported him fully by attending all his games.

He would go on to spend three years with the Quakes before being traded to the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2014. Following a short stint in British Columbia, Steven was then traded to Toronto FC in 2015 for two years, before having the chance to return to his home state as a free agent.

“LAFC seemed the best fit as far as the coach. I think Bob Bradley is one of the best coaches, in not only the U.S., but the world. LAFC had a lot of promise by how they were creating this club with the stadium, the fans, the name, the logo, etc., it seemed they were doing it right. Being from California, I had a lot of other offers, so it wasn’t an easy decision. But it made the decision a little easier.”

On January 24, 2018, the 32-year-old defender signed with the Los Angeles Football Club. Beitashour hit two major career milestones during his first year with the expansion club:

  • Beitashour made his 200th start in the 2-0 win against the Columbus Crew SC on June 23rd, becoming the 100th MLS player in league history to reach the mark. 
  • Beitashour also started in all 30 of his MLS Regular Season appearances, his sixth season surpassing the 2000 minute mark. 

Since then, Beitashour has been fortunate to find a club that not only supports him as a player but highly respects his Iranian heritage.

“[There’s] a huge soccer culture in the Iranian culture. If you ask them, ‘what is your favorite sport?’ I think 99% of them would say soccer. […] So the fact that you can bring awareness that there is an Iranian-American player playing in the MLS – in their own backyard. I think a lot of them stick well to it and are LAFC fans.”

There is a significant population of Iranians and Iranian-Americans in and around Los Angeles, with some estimates stating there are between 300,000 and half a million people of Iranian heritage residing in the greater Los Angeles area. It is considered to be the largest group of Iranians outside of Iran in the world.

“There are a lot of young kids that are in a similar position where they’re Iranian-American – they want to play for the MLS, they want to play for the Iranian National Team and they look at my story for hope and belief.”

LAFC have been groundbreakers in cultural acceptance by recognizing and respecting each player’s background. Omar Gaber, former defender and Egyptian native kicked off the tradition last year of having the first player t-shirt in Arabic before departing the club in July of 2018.

Last October, the LAFC released the first Farsi t-shirt in MLS history; a shirt in black-and-gold, that reads: ‘Los Angeles Football Club’ to show solidarity with the defender.

“I think they’re taking advantage of the fact that’s there so many Iranians, Persians, in the greater Los Angeles area. And the fact they support me in that way, and they show that they support all their players. Not just me. [It] really speaks volumes of the club and how they’re doing things,” Beitashour continues. “LA has a lot of different cultures [and] ethnicities here. Soccer is the world game. So anytime you can get into those areas; it’s really smart and beneficial for both the club and the player.”

In addition to having personalized player apparel added to LAFC HQ’s cultural collection, alongside Lee Nguyen’s player tee in Vietnamese, Beitashour had the opportunity to share his culture through food on an episode of “Taste of LAFC” hosted by Max Bretos. He took LAFC’s play-by-play announcer to Shamshiri Grill just outside of Westwood to enjoy a traditional Persian meal while discussing his experiences with the club.

Off the field, the new father balances spending time with his family, filming his “Beita Time” series on LAFC’s youtube channel, and recording episodes of the ‘Back-To-Back’ podcast with fellow teammate Jordan Harvey.

LAFC continues to be a trailblazer in MLS by displaying player support on both personal and athletic levels. And Steven Beitashour is proof of that.

Featured Image:  Daisy Jimenez

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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Catching up with all of LAFC’s recent roster changes

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

It has been a very busy few weeks for the Los Angeles Football Club as the MLS secondary transfer window officially closed last night. The club wasted no time in making some serious roster moves with unanswered rumors still floating around.

LAFC released both Shaft Brewer, Jr. and Christian Ramirez; securing Eddie Segura from loan and offering him and Latif Blessing a contract extension. LAFC also added forward Brian Rodriguez and defender Diego Palacios to the already powerful roster – where he will join Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi, and Adama Diomande.

Here’s the full breakdown:

Shaft Brewer Jr.

The first roster move came as Shaft Brewer Jr. and the club mutually agreed to part ways on July 28.

Brewer Jr., 19, was initially acquired by LAFC in March of 2018, in a trade with FC Dallas. He would go on to make four appearances, with one start for the black-and-gold, the loss against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Shaft spent most of his time on loan with USL side, Phoenix Rising FC. During preseason, it looked like he would take on more of a role with the senior team but never broke through.

Eddie Segura

LAFC secured defender Eddie Segura from Colombian side Atletico Huila on a permanent basis following a six-month loan. He is on a multi-year deal.

Segura has proven to be a great defensive fixture for the club; as he remains only one of three players on the roster to appear in every game across all competitions in 2019. Partnered with Walker Zimmerman, Segura is also the only new starter to the roster this season.

This is very exciting news as the 22-year-old continues to develop and looks to be a foundational piece for the club moving forward.

Latif Blessing

Latif Blessing is staying in LA. Earlier this week, the 22-year-old attacker signed a new multi-year contract extension until 2022.

Similar to Segura, Blessing is also one of three LAFC players that has seen action in every contest across all competitions this season and has been vital to the midfield. In his second campaign with the black-and-gold, Blessing has logged in 23 appearances, with 19 starts, tallying three goals and five assists in 1,792 minutes.

“I know I speak for fans and staff alike that Latif has won everyone over with his infectious energy play, and he is well-deserving of his new contract,” said EVP & general manager John Thorrington in a team statement. “His game continues to grow, and we know he will play an integral part in the club’s success on and off the field moving forward.”

It’s no secret there was some doubt surrounding Blessing after he posted a few cryptic messages. Hopefully, this new deal will satisfy him and the fans.

Christian Ramirez

In true deja vu form, the club agreed to trade forward Christian Ramirez to the Houston Dynamo. Ramirez joined LAFC on a deadline-day trade last year during the 2018 summer transfer window from Minnesota United FC.

According to the official statement from LAFC:

“The club acquired $250,000 in Allocation Money ($175,000 in General Allocation Money and $75,000 in Targeted Allocation Money) from the Houston Dynamo in exchange for the forward. Additionally, the club could receive $75,000 in GAM if Ramirez meets certain performance metrics with the Dynamo. LAFC also retains considerations for a percentage of future sell-on fees for Ramirez.”

The 28-year-old logged in 16 starts making a total of 24 appearances during his tenure with the club – recording six goals and two assists.

It’s a shame to see a promising player like Ramirez be released. He is a very hard-working player and was a great answer when Diomande was out with an injury, however, he missed huge scoring opportunities earlier this season.

Brian Rodriguez

After much speculation and several hints given – thank you Embassy of Uruguay – Brian Rodriguez is officially black-and-gold.

In a record-breaking sale of $11.5 million, Rodriguez is the third most expensive signing in MLS history.

The club agreed to terms with forward Brian Rodriguez as a Young Designated Player. Rodriquez arrives from Club Atlético Peñarol of Uruguay’s Primera División and will be added to LAFC’s roster “pending receipt of his International Transfer Certificate (ITC) and P1 Visa.”

LAFC’s digital manager, Vince La Rosa described Rodriguez as a “willing presser,” “playmaker” and someone who is very energetic on the ball containing the ability to play off with either foot – making it very difficult for defenders to catch him.

In addition to acquiring Rodriguez, LAFC confirmed they have entered a significant partnership with Peñarol. Including, an exhibition match between the teams in 2020, and an exchange of coaching, academy and player resources.

Diego Palacios

Diego “El Chiqui” Palacios is black-and-gold!

The club announced on Monday they acquired the 20-year-old defender using Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) beating out Spanish giant FC Barcelona before the transfer window closed.

Diego joins LAFC from SD Aucas of Primera Categoría Serie A in Ecuador after spending the 2018 season on loan to Willem II of the Eredivisie, the top league in Holland.

“Diego is an impressive young player who has drawn interest from some of the top clubs in the world,” LAFC EVP & General Manager John Thorrington said. “We are excited that Diego has chosen to come to Los Angeles to develop and grow in the next stage of his career.”

If Palacios is match ready in time, we could see him as a potential substitution for Jordan Harvey with Mohamed El-Munir still out on injury.

“Diego is a young, talented left back and we’re really excited because we think he’s another player that fits well with everything we try to do,” said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley.

Diego Rossi (Rumor)

So far, so good. Rossi is staying in Los Angeles. Reports have surfaced that Italian side Fiorentina is pushing hard for the 21-year-old attacker offering around $16.8 million.

Rossi is a very significant player for the black-and-gold. He is currently fourth in the league with 13 goals and second for 35 shots on goal. In addition to five assists and 1971 minutes, thus far.

What do you think about these roster changes?

Featured Image:  Brian Rodriguez (IG)

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LAFC Wins At Home 4-3 In A Peachy Way

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The Los Angeles Football Club returns to its old winning ways in a close 4-3 victory; defeating the reigning MLS Cup Champions Atlanta United for the first time in franchise history at the Banc of California stadium.

The win is great. But it was a close call.

A slight change in the starting XI saw Pablo Sisniega in goal. And with Tristian Blackmon on the injury list, Steven Beitashour returned to the full back position on the right. Head Coach Bob Bradley was vague in the reasoning of why Tyler Miller was on the bench – we can only assume he’s testing both keepers at this point.

The match kicked off with LAFC watching hopelessly as Atlanta scored the opening goal within minutes of the whistle. Mo Adams struck in the rebound – marking his first goal in his first MLS appearance for the visitors.

The black-and-gold answered in a big way by scoring three goals in a 12-minute action-packed period.

Mark-Antony Kaye sent the through ball to Adama Diomande who tapped it home past Brad Guzan for the equalizer in the 33rd minute. And then things got fun.

In the 38th minute, Diego Rossi passed the ball through traffic from the middle to Carlos Vela, who then sent it back to him at the top of the box – Rossi sent it home with one touch to double the lead.

Four minutes later, Carlos Vela drew the penalty. The captain stepped up to convert – scoring his 22nd MLS-career goal.

The captain found Diomande in the penalty area. He sent it to a waiting Atuesta near the goal – who in true Eduard Atuesta style, smoothly turned and shot it home for the club’s fourth goal of the night.

Then here comes Atlanta’s Josef Martinez to kill the party doubling the visitor’s total just before the half. How rude.

Shortly after the restart, Atlanta was quick to put the pressure on a possession-dominating home side – forcing an unfortunate own goal by Eddie Segura that gave Atlanta the push they needed in the 51st minute increasing the score 4-3.

Ten minutes later, it seemed Atlanta would level the match when Martinez attempted to recreate the “Atuesta” and spin around Beitashour. But as the script says, the ball went wide of the net.

Lee Nguyen entered the pitch as a substitute for Beitashour in the 63rd minute and got straight to work with moves like these:

In the 84th minute, the MLS All-Star Walker Zimmerman was close to adding one of his own goals to the total with the header but Guzan was there to save it.

Defenders are expected to sacrifice their bodies for the club and Jordan Harvey did just that in the 89th minute. The 30-year-old made a diving block to deny Julian Gressel who had a clear shot on target.

Atlanta had five chances to equalize and escape with a point during the latter part of the half. But thankfully an energetic team and Sisniega saved the day – leading the black-and-gold to another victory and staying undefeated at home with a 9-0-1 record.

Still sitting atop of the table of the Western Conference, the black-and-gold cushioned their lead even more with 49 points. But it is clear the team still needs to work on defending as the road gets harder.

Next up. LAFC will travel to the east coast to visit the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium next Saturday, August 3.

Featured Image: @LAFC

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Player Spotlight: Tyler Miller, ‘It’s a dream come true’

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

From playing with Seattle’s USL side, Seattle Sounders 2, to traveling cross-country with the U.S. Men’s National Team – the journey has been a dream come true for LAFC’s goalkeeper Tyler Miller.

Inspired by his brothers, the Woodbury native found his passion for the game through some friendly brotherly rivalry:

“I got into soccer because my brothers […] played soccer as well as we were growing up. So for me, it was an opportunity to kinda be like them and I always looked up them growing up. I wanted to do everything that they were doing. So soccer was the big thing. That was my main thing, we were able to bond – have fun together.”

After tending goal at Northwestern and a short stint in the German fourth division, Miller arrived in Seattle to support the established starter, Stefan Frei.

Miller was selected with the first pick of the 2017 MLS Expansion Draft on December 12, 2017. He made his club debut on March 4 – along with his first clean sheet against his former team.

“{When] I moved out to LA last year, it was a good transition. I got my first opportunity to play. It’s been good so far.”

And that it has.

Life for Miller in Los Angeles has been different. He lives in Santa Monica now and enjoys hanging out with fellow teammate and neighbor, Walker Zimmerman. There are fewer rainy days and less uncertainty about his preparation every week.

Earlier this year, he inked his first keeper glove deal with West Coast Goalkeeping – a Seattle-based company Miller developed a “bond” with while with the Sounders – receiving the opportunity to take part in designing his own keeper glove, the Quantum Miller Pro – with a small keychain version to match.

“Over the past couple of years, we’ve been working on a pair of gloves for myself. And to be able to launch that is exciting – I see all these little kids now; its like they’re wearing my gloves which is just awesome.”

So far this season, Tyler has recorded: 18 matches. 1,620 minutes. 47 saves. 12 victories. Six shutouts – to be exact.

And his work with the Black-and-Gold hasn’t gone unnoticed as the 26-year-old keeper received his first senior team camp call-up in January – though he wasn’t selected for a game-day roster.

Six months later, he was called up once again. This time, Miller would jet off to training and appear on the bench for both of the USMNT’s friendlies against Venezuela and Jamaica – then earned a spot on the final 2019 Gold Cup roster.

“It’s an amazing feeling. I mean to think about where I was a year and a half ago, wasn’t even playing for Seattle and now I’m starting for LA. To be here now with this amazing team, part of this Gold Cup roster is something I’ve always dreamt about. So it’s a dream come true to be a part of this team.”

Even though Miller remained on the bench throughout the tournament, it was an experience he’ll never forget – telling reporters upon returning to LAFC, he is “grateful” for the opportunity.

Since returning to the club from international duty, Miller appeared back in goal in the 3-1 win over Houston Dynamo on July 12. And again, seven days later for the fourth installment of El Tráfico.

Motivated by his family, Miller is also known for his philanthropic events as he hosted the second annual ‘Tyler Miller’s Beach Soccer Tournament Fundraiser’ this year to benefit the Austin Everett Foundation – an organization that aims to empower kids in their fight against cancer through the strength and support of athletic teams.

“[It] runs in my family and so that was something that motivated me to really just try and take that initiative and do whatever I can. Because I know how difficult it is for families that have cancer. And so being able to help them in any way I can; in any way possible is really important to me.”

Over 100 fans attended the event where Miller, along with teammates Dejan Jaković, Tristan Blackmon, and Walker Zimmerman, coached four teams in a beach soccer tournament. Along with the tournament, the event also hosted a silent auction with autographed items donated by Miller’s friends and teammates – to help raise additional funds for the foundation.

Aside from planning future fundraisers – Miller has appeared on LAFC’s podcasts and various shows on Youtube, two of which were started by his teammates: Steven Beitashour, Jordan Harvey and Zimmerman. When asked if he has considered joining the podcast community; Miller expressed his interest to be on TV: “I’m hoping to get on TV one day. But I’m taking my time.”

I have no doubt Miller will be on television one day, but for now, LAFC has captured the nation and fans nationwide will have a chance to watch Tyler and his teammates this Friday night, as they host Atlanta United at the Banc of California stadium. The match will air on ESPN at 7 pm PST.

Featured Image: Daisy Jimenez

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LA Galaxy vs. LAFC: Match Preview

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Where: Dignity Health Sports Complex, Carson, Calif.

When: Friday, July 19th, 7:00 p.m. PT.

How to watch: ESPN, ESPNLA 710, KFWB 980

The highly anticipated fourth chapter of El Trafico is finally here and it’s time to blackout Carson once more!

Following a successful road trip in Houston, the Los Angeles Football Club will travel a grueling twelve miles (two hours by LA traffic) to visit the LA Galaxy – who are currently in third place – in search of their first win of the series.

Going into its second year of “El Trafico,” LAFC is currently 0-1-2. And the league leaders have proven to be a force to be reckoned with as they continue to cross out rivals off the list. With Carlos Vela and Zlatan back in lineup for their club, respectively. This is a match you won’t want to miss.

Image courtesy of MLSSoccer.com

It seems all odds are in favor for the black-and-gold. However, Steven Beitashour and Jordan Harvey should still be on high alert of not only Zlatan but prevent Uriel Antuna; from getting close on the wings. Antuna had strong performances while with Mexico in the Gold Cup, including a hat trick against Cuba. But he still does not level up to Diego Rossi.

Although Bob Bradley has been testing the waters lately with a slightly altered rotation for each match, I predict he will field a full-strength roster. Hopefully, with Tristian Blackmon back in the center back position. And Mohammad El-Munir, Dejan Jaković, and Peter Lee-Vassell on the bench.

Eduard Atuesta will likely rejoin the roster after serving his yellow card suspension in Houston. And his presence could without a doubt be the match’s game-changer for the black-and-gold, especially as he pairs up with Mark-Anthony Kaye and Latif Blessing in the midfield.

El Trafico, El Clasico, the 12-Mile derby?

No matter how you phrase it. It’s no secret, there is a deep-seeded rivalry between both clubs especially, with the fourth installment of “El Trafico” around the corner in its second year. To help get a deeper insight, I interviewed my colleague at MLSFemale and LA Galaxy reporter, Michelle Huitink.

Araceli Villanueva: It seems the Galaxy has been on a rocky roller coaster ride in their last few matches, recently falling to San Jose this past weekend, how are they expecting to turn things around for Friday’s rally?

Michelle Huitink: I think the Galaxy just needs some rest and have key players back in good shape. Antuna and Dos Santos had just returned from international duty. And Diego Polenta was suspended due to yellow card accumulation. Hopefully, Perry Kitchen and Sebastian Lletget can recover in time. The Galaxy knows how important this game is.

They weren’t necessarily outplayed when they were away in San Jose, and they won at home against Toronto FC, but this last match was worrisome. David Bingham came up huge with 13 saves. But I hope it exposed the defense weaknesses in time for them to tighten up and get it together to play against LAFC. The big problem seems to be lack of leadership and heart, so hopefully, morale and passion can be re-ignited so they’ll step it up for this Friday’s match. 

AV: With Jonathan Dos Santos and Uriel Antuna back from international duty – should we expect the Galaxy’s roster to be at full strength or who could be potentially missing the match? 

MH: Anything is possible. I don’t want to see Emmanuel Boateng start because, despite his hustle, he can’t get the cross nor finish in front of the net. But if he does, I’d bring Efrain Alvarez in as a spark off the bench. Hopefully, we will have a full roster. As much as I’d like to see Dave Romney start – Jorgen Skjelvik is a guy you know you can count on in the backline for a match like this. Daniel Steres has earned his spot. He is consistent, can win 1v1 situations and is overall a great defender. And Giancarlo Gonzalez is also a key player; having had some wild defending in the past. Efrain Alvarez can be a real threat. Jonathan in the midfield is legit lethal as a playmaker and a goal scorer. I would like to see Antuna bring that Gold Cup action on the pitch Friday. The Galaxy doesn’t lack talent on paper. And we’ve seen that they can gel well as a team.

As much as I’d like to say it doesn’t matter who we play or because of the rivalry, regardless it’s important at this point in the season for the Galaxy to win. They’ve slipped to 3rd place. So I feel like the fans have been let down and feel uneasy how the team is going to perform. The best START is for Galaxy to show up for El Traffico like they mean it. 

AV: What is your take on the Zlatan yellow card controversy and MLS’ odd explanation for it?

MH: There just needs to be consistency across MLS. Apparently, the yellow against him for the [Sean] Johnson incident doesn’t count. It is what it is. Besides I’d like to think LAFC would want to face a full roster – whatever the case. 

AV: Friday marks the fourth meeting between both rivals. Now in its second year, are fans more hyped for the rivalry? And what additional precautions have the club made for Dignity Park?

MH: There’s definitely going to be heightened awareness and security. They have made it so that there’s no [general admission]. Everyone has an assigned seat. Fans are definitely hyped. For a Friday, I know many are still planning to tailgate, most likely leaving work early. There’s always a concern for hooliganism. 

Bonus question: What is your score prediction?

MH: 2-1. My score prediction is LA Galaxy win but by one goal. If the Galaxy can score early, I think there’s going to be quite the struggle. I don’t really see based on the Galaxy’s past matches that they can keep LAFC from scoring. The club can get shots, it’s the finish that they’ll have to nail. David Bingham should be on top of his game.

Featured Image: Pro Soccer USA

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

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Breaking Records, Making History: LAFC Continues Its Reign But How Long Will It Last?

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The Los Angeles Football Club starts off the second half of the season on the right foot but can they keep it up?

Prior to dominating in 3-1 victory in Houston over the weekend; the black-and-gold was eliminated from the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals this past Wednesday.

It would have been nice to see the club win the U.S. Open Cup championship that they were so close to claiming last season, but now LAFC will continue their run for the 2019 MLS Cup.

But first, let’s analyze the first part of the season and what I think LAFC could improve moving forward:

League Dominance

LAFC is currently sitting atop of the Western Conference standings with 46 points and has made the Banc a fortress with a 8-0-1 home record. They also have a solid road record of 6-2-3 and are leading the Supporters Shield race.

Below them is tight race in the standings with the Seattle Sounders, LA Galaxy, and Minnesota United slowly climbing up all within a point of a each other.

After falling to the Vancouver Whitecaps on the road in April for their first loss of the season, the Los Angeles Football Club exacted revenge in a historic 6-1 blowout at the Banc of California stadium on July 6.

It was a statistics dominated match – LAFC has collectively scored 11 goals between both matches – making them the quickest team in MLS history to reach 100 points in the post-shootout era.

Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi continue to be a pain in everyone’s side having collectively scored 30 goals between them. While his teammate ranks first in both categories, Rossi comes in fifth for (66) shots and second for (32) shots on goal.

According to MLS’ playoffs tracker, if the playoffs started tomorrow, LAFC would earn a bye week as the top seed team. And would play the winner of the Minnesota United vs. the San Jose Earthquakes match in the western conference semifinals.

But considering Decision Day is October 6 with playoffs beginning on October 16 – the club still has some work to do to ensure that future is a possibility.

Roster Rotations

Another game. Another slightly heavy rotation.

Head Coach, Bob Bradley, has stressed multiple times that the current schedule is ‘ridiculous,’ and I agree.

True to his word. Bradley sat out Carlos Vela for the first time this season, giving Steven Beitashour the captain’s armband on Friday. Jordan Harvey, Latif Blessing, Diego Rossi, and Christian Ramirez joined Pablo Sisniega on the bench.

The match saw Tyler Miller back in goal and Peter-Lee Vassell earn the start in Houston, upon return from international duty.

This move isn’t unusual, as for the match against the Vancouver Whitecaps, the head coach opted to rest a few starters. And started Dejan Jakovic, Mohammed El-Munir, Adama Diomande (who appeared in the 18 for Kansas City), and Lee Nguyen – moving Tristian Blackmon back into the left wing.

In addition to losing Andre Horta earlier this season, LAFC announced on Monday that defender Niko Hämäläinen has returned to English side Queens Park Rangers following the conclusion of his six-month loan with LAFC.

The Battle of the Keepers

Pablo Sisniega has impressed us in the absence of Tyler Miller. The 24-year-old keeper stepped right in and created a 4-2-0 record in just one month.

Miller has racked up a 12-1-4 record with LAFC in 2019, thus far. As well, recording six clean sheets and allowing just 14 goals along the way. But with Miller going away to serve as the third-string keeper for the U.S. Men’s National Team for the duration of the Gold Cup – he returned to LAFC a bit shaky. However, I believe he can regain his rhythm in time.

Additionally, Philip Ejimadu has been doing well while on loan to USL side, FC Tucson – recording 31 saves, 15 clearances, and three clean sheets.

It seems we finally a strong keeper roster this season.

Carlos Vela leading the league

20 games. 19 goals.

Just give Carlos Vela the Golden Boot already!

The Mexican captain is leading the league in (19) goals, (12) assists, (99) shots, (41) shots on goal and is first in the Audi Player Index ratings with 874 points.

Last week, he was nominated as Player of the Week for the third time this season, along with Team of the Week honors.

Vela has played in every competitive match for LAFC this season, going the full 90 in all, except for two of the Black and Gold’s outings, being replaced with 11 minutes to play in April’s 4-0 victory over D.C. United – putting a target on the captain’s back.

During the Timbers match, the captain was seen limping multiple times – having left the pitch entirely at one point. And even though he sat out his first match in Houston, Vela was seen coaching his teammates from the sidelines during the second half.

Biggest concerns moving forward

Even though LAFC seems unstoppable at this point, I have still a few concerns for the team.

First. Let’s talk schedule.

Last week we saw LAFC do a quick turnaround within 48 hours and SB Nation’s Angels on Parade addressed this issue head on. And quite frankly, I agree with their stance. Given the club was eliminated from the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, for the league to allow them to travel to Houston the very next day is ridiculous.

Fitness is still my biggest concern for the team.

Although LAFC has been pretty lucky from crowding up the injury list there are currently three players on the report: Alejandro Guido and Danilo Silva are questionable, while Javier Perez remains out with an ACL Tear.

Scheduling and roster rotation aside, I realize there is always room for error in a match but LAFC continues to make little mistakes from time-to-time.

From Sisniega’s communication error to Harvey’s mistake against Portland, LAFC has gotten lucky in both cases. But if not addressed properly, it can have a ripple effect. Fortunately, LAFC has been great in regaining form during the second half.

What’s next?

After enduring a packed month of international soccer action and a rigorous 48 turnaround, the MLS schedule gets slightly easier for the club until August.

This week, LAFC is back on the road to face the LA Galaxy who are just a striking hour away (two hours if you consider LA traffic) at the Dignity Health Sports Park on Friday, July 19.

Featured Image: LAFC

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Tyler Miller, Walker Zimmerman talk Gold Cup journey, LAFC

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

In front of 17,307 energetic fans, the U.S. Men’s National Team won the group stage in a grueling 1-0 win over Panama; claiming all nine points ahead of the quarterfinals. And among the skillful roster are LAFC’s Tyler Miller and Walker Zimmerman.

Before the team heads to the east coast to face Curaçao in this Sunday’s matchup in Philadelphia, I had the opportunity to catch up with LAFC’s favorite duo in Kansas City to discuss their experiences with the senior team this tournament thus far and reflect on the club’s strong start to the season.

Prior to the start of the USMNT’s Gold Cup run, Zimmerman – a longtime veteran of the senior squad – appeared as a halftime substitution during the friendly against Venezuela and has made back-to-back appearances for Gold Cup play.

Zimmerman: “It’s been great. I mean anytime you get called into the national team, it’s an honor. But even more so, I’m getting to the point where I don’t want to be content. Get some games, get some starts, get some good performances – to try to build that momentum. [..] So it’s been great to be a part of these first two games. And get two wins.”

Tyler Miller earned his first call-up to the senior team earlier this year for January’s senior camp. Unfortunately, he didn’t make the cut to the game day roster and returned to LAFC for preseason.

Six months later, the 26-year-old keeper would get another opportunity as he was called up for the USMNT’s friendlies. Even though he appeared on the bench for both matches, Miller ultimately made the final Gold Cup roster, “[It’s] a dream come true to be a part of this team.”

Following Wednesday’s win, Miller is the only player on the roster yet to have made an appearance.

While the duo has been on the road, back in Los Angeles – LAFC has continued to defend the Banc for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, advancing to the quarterfinals last week in a thrilling 3-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes.

Miller and Zimmerman are excited about their club team: “I’ve had some late nights, where I watch some games of theirs. [I’m] looking forward to rooting them on from afar,” Zimmerman expressed.

Zimmerman went on to explain LAFC’s overall group mentality is greatly improved compared to last season:

“It’s a groundwork that we’ve put in place since the beginning of last year with how we want to be, our mentality. That’s one of the biggest differences from last year to this year, is the mentality of the whole group. To realize we’re a special group of players. We have a great locker room. And a very talented team.”

Miller added, “It’s always a challenge when you’re called into international duty for the guys to step up that haven’t really been getting a lot of minutes. I think the team has done well in the first two open cup games and that’s going to help propel them into the next three MLS games where we might have some guys still missing. I think this is a huge opportunity for guys to really get some valuable minutes because you never know. I mean the MLS season is very long and injuries happen. And everyone has to be ready.”

One of those players who has been earning some “valuable minutes” is Pablo Sisneiga, who has stepped up in Miller’s absence. And Tyler was thrilled for the young Mexican keeper:

“Pablo has done great. I’ve always got confidence in Pablo. I think he’s really performed well and has made some key saves for our team, especially with the RSL game. This last game we had too. I’m really happy for him because I know how hard he works. He’s a good kid and I’m glad to see him doing well.”

As the pair gear up to head to the east coast with the USMNT – the black-and-gold will kick off a packed schedule in Colorado on Friday.

Featured Image: Peaty Romano

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San Sisniega: LAFC advances to U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinals in 3-1 Win over San Jose Earthquakes

Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The Los Angeles Football Club returns to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals after knocking out the San Jose Earthquakes in a 3-1 victory at the Banc of California stadium on Thursday night.

Why change what’s not broken? Head Coach Bob Bradley fielded the same lineup as last week with only one change – that being Adama Diomande and Christian Ramirez switching places in the starting XI. But it was a move that would greatly benefit the team during the second half.

With Tyler Miller away on international duty, Pablo Sisniega made eight saves, including a key stop on a close-range shot in the 63rd minute to keep San Jose out. The keeper earned his second-straight start and put his Olympian lineage on full display with another stellar performance for his first appearance at the Banc.

The match kicked off to a rocky start for the black-and-gold as the Quakes outran Jordan Harvey to break through the defense and find a solo Vako who beat Danilo Silva for the early lead for the visitors in the 7th minute.

LAFC continued to struggle to break down the Quakes giving Cristian Espinoza the chance to run the ball down clear to the opposite end of the field to find Chris Wondolowski at the box – Wondo sent the strike off the cross into the net. But the goal was ruled offside.

Trailing by one, the black-and-gold rushed to find the equalizer. Lee Nguyen played the ball ahead to Diego Rossi, who slipped in behind Andrew Tarbell for a cheeky finish – leveling the match in the 35th minute.

LAFC was quick to knock on San Jose’s door after the restart keeping Tarbell alert as they searched for the third goal of the night. From Latif Blessing‘s chance hitting the crossbar to Vela’s shot going wide – the club produced several chances but still had trouble converting.

Just as the ref put Diomande’s number on the board to sub him out for Ramirez, the striker took Rossi’s through ball, got past Tarbell and doubled the score with a perfect strike on an open net in the 60th minute.

The Mexican captain tried to connect with Ramirez just inside the penalty area. But the ball deflected off San Jose’s player to miss the forward by inches.

San Jose proved they are a different team this year as the match intensified with Espinoza and Wondolowski attacking the goal. However, Sisniega, the Mexico City native, came up huge to deny the Quakes twice.

Rossi sent in a screamer in the 84th minute but it deflected just off the inside of the crossbar. But within seconds, LAFC would find themselves back on San Jose’s doorstep after a Marcos Lopez free-kick went back to the black-and-gold.

Eduard Atuesta worked the ball in the midfield and passed it to Tristian Blackmon through traffic. Blackmon ran it down the center connecting with Vela, who cut around San Jose’s defense and slid it home past Tarbell in the 85th minute; securing the 3-1 victory for the black-and-gold.

The club will host the Portland Timbers in the next round on July 10. But first. LAFC returns to MLS action in a two-game road trip next week as they travel to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park to face the Colorado Rapids. And then east to face Sporting Kansas City five days later.

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