Tag Archives: Latif Blessing

Old Friends, New Rivalries: LAFC 0, Sporting KC 2

Araceli Villanueva - LAFC/mlsfemale
Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Los Angeles Football Club‘s 13-game unbeaten streak at home finally came to an end, as they fell to Sporting Kansas City, in a dramatic 2-0 loss on Saturday at Banc of California Stadium. The match proved to be an emotional match, as it reunited some familiar faces with Benny Feilhaber and Latif Blessing playing against their former team. And I’m sure emotions were high as Feilhaber took over the captain’s role for the night.

Bob Bradley made many changes to the lineup after his team went 120 minutes on Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup, and it showed. Andre Horta, Danilo Silva and Luis Lopez all had their first starts for the club, with the entire backline subbed out from the last game.

The first ten minutes both sides go back and forth, putting Tim Melia and Lopez – who made his first appearance tonight – into action early. Sporting KC came close to opening the scoring sheet when Gerso shot down the middle – but it went straight into Lopez’s arms.

Though, luck would ultimately run out when the black-and-gold gave Sporting KC their first goal of the night. Diego Rubio sent a pass around the corner straight through the defense to Gerso Fernandes, who hit a quick strike to the far post giving Sporting KC the lead in the 17th minute.

The home side watched as the visitors doubled their lead when Dejan Jakovic was called for a penalty after kicking Felipe Gutierrez in the head on a challenge in the 66th minute. Dejan Jakovic was called for a penalty after kicking Felipe Gutierrez in the head on a challenge. Although it didn’t look intentional, VAR confirmed the ruling and awarded Sporting KC the penalty. Ilie stepped up and converted the penalty increasing Sporting KC’s score 2-0.

Now trailing by two, Bradley didn’t hesitate to bring out the big guns as he substituted in Carlos Vela, Christian Ramirez, and Blessing. LAFC came close to finding a glimpse of hope as Horta nearly set up a goal, but his redirect pass across was narrowly missed by Ramirez’s diving header attempt, but alas, it trickled wide.

During the final minutes, LAFC was pressuring Sporting KC’s defense with Feilhaber and Blessing attempting to up one on their former team. However, despite their effort, Melia ensured the hosts couldn’t break through and delivered LAFC’s third-straight loss of the week.

Unfortunately, LAFC will not have much to reflect on this loss, as they quickly turn around to host Real Salt Lake on Wednesday, August 15.

Featured image: @BancStadium

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LAFC vs. LA Galaxy: Match Preview

Araceli Villanueva - LAFC/mlsfemale
Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Where: Banc of California Stadium, Los Angeles, Calif.

When: Thursday, July 26th, 7:30 p.m. PT.

How to watch: ESPN, ESPNLA 710, KFWB 980


After falling to Minnesota United FC this past weekend, the black-and-gold returned to training on Tuesday. Lee Nguyen – who has been dangerous in the midfield this season – is available for Thursday after serving his one-match suspension due to a red card he picked up with Portland. Eduard Atuesta and André Horta were also in full training this week.

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

Araceli Villanueva: The Galaxy had a bit of a rocky start but has been winning a lot of games as of late. How have they turned things around?

Michelle Huitink: This is a good question. They were playing bad soccer up until July 14. I was amazed how they came back to win against [the New England Revolution], to be honest. We couldn’t even beat San Jose or DC United, OK those ended in draws, but they’re bottom tiered teams. But, even with all of the Galaxy’s problems with defense, they’ve got a consistent pattern of play: Concede a goal or two early and then Zlatan or Alessandrini or Kamara or even Pontius score. Bingham is fantastic at saving us, but he has to work so hard because the defense is so weak – other teams often score on deflections.

We have good players and now they’re finally learning to play together as a team rather than individual talent. [Coach Schmid] been playing three in the back, which I think there should be 4, but this formation (3-4-1-2) has been working. Set pieces are also the way we score.

AV: In addition to Carlos Vela, Latif Blessing and Diego Rossi creating dangerous plays in the box – Tyler Miller and Walker Zimmermann have been vital to our defense. And with Nguyen available for selection, it looks like LAFC could have a powerful roster again for Thursday’s matchup. What adjustments do you think the Galaxy can make to their lineup to counter set pieces?

MHWe are missing Sebastian Lletget as he recovers from an injury. Ashley Cole was out due to a red card. The Dos Santos Bros had been out because of international duty and once they were back, they didn’t make an impact. So I’d say, the lineup has been changing a lot. The thing is, the Galaxy don’t lack talent [and] I think Coach Sigi Schmid has finally figured something out.

Alessandrini has been coming in as a sub and I think that helps balance out egos and power struggles. Ibrahimovic does his thing, but the fact that now he and Kamara are played together up top and Kamara isn’t playing midfield (a position that he frankly, isn’t comfortable in nor suited for). I think those are keys.

Dave Romney has been great for defense. Dude has gotten two teeth knocked out now. I kind of see Boateng as a “closing pitcher” kind of, where he tightens up defense, makes plays, and goes for goal whenever he’s subbed in, usually pretty late in the second half.

AV: Although these two clubs have played each other once, thus far. It seems they are quite familiar with each other. Is there any player LAFC fans should learn about? Or give us a fun fact about the Galaxy we might not know!

MH: Romain Alessandrini aka “Alsessandreamy” always gives a Man of the Match performance. He’s a 7, but he always plays hard for the Galaxy. He’s usually getting yellow cards or is in the mix whenever someone gets one. He was so happy France won the Cup, of course, he was watching in-flight. He carried a big French flag with him and he and Ciani posed with it. Now, he’s bringing that winning attitude to the Galaxy. What can I say concisely? He’s hot on the pitch and off. It would just be a travesty if he got traded.

AV: Ibra. The player that likes to refer to himself in third person. LAFC was dominating the last match until he appeared late in the match. Do you think he will deliver the same, if not, similar results Thursday?

MH: I have no doubts that Zlatan will perform and score at least one; He has 9 goals in his last 6 starts. 4 assists. And total 12 goals with the Galaxy since he’s joined.

I just think the strategy can’t be to just get the ball to Zlatan because that’s when we get predictable. Now, the Galaxy on March 31st had started the comeback as Lletget had scored a consolation goal and then Pontius scored. Ibra was just the one to bring it all on for the win, which is what we hired him for, right?

LAFC are at home. They’ve got something to prove against the Galaxy more so. For all the trash talk people joke and say about LAFC, they’ve got Blessing, Vela, Rossi and Diomande and other great players that I wouldn’t underestimate. Tyler Miller is one heck of a goalkeeper. It’s definitely going to be game on. This is MLS, it’s anyone’s game.

Featured image: Erick Gonzales

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Battle in the Heatwave: LAFC 4, Orlando 1

Araceli Villanueva - LAFC/mlsfemale
Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

July 7, 2018

It seems Mother Nature has truly been testing Los Angeles FC lately as they faced Houston Dynamo in rainy conditions and now Orlando City SC in the midst of a Californian heatwave. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop the black-and-gold from defeating Orlando in a 4-1 victory and remain undefeated at home.

LAFC started having to sustain some pressure from Orlando and dealing with attacking threats from Dom Dwyer, Sacha Kljestan, and Josue Colman for the first ten minutes.

Latif Blessing tries to head one in but it is denied by Joe Bendik. Blessing keeps the rebound alive and kicked it back in the group with his teammates waiting – the ball falls to Mark-Anthony Kaye who kicks it so lightly to Adama Diomande who then taps it in opening the scoring sheet for the black-and-gold.

In the 32nd minute, Aaron Kovar finds Blessing who slams it into the back of the net. LAFC leading 2-0 into the half.

The second half was filled with action as an energetic LAFC looked to add to their score. Kljestan looked to pull one for Orlando but Tyler Miller made a diving save to deny.

Tyler Miller deserves major props for making eight saves in the match, several of them 1v1 in crucial situations.

Diomande was close to earning the black-and-gold their third when he kicked in a loose ball, however, it was called offsides. Moments later, Kljestan found the goal in the 58th minute after Ciman forced the right-footed striker to clear one off his left-foot past Miller putting Orlando on the board 2-1.

The black-and-gold immediately was ready to respond with another goal when Blessing sent one to Kovar but the ball goes wide. Again another goal would be taken away thanks to VAR, luckily this time it was for Dom Dwyer in the 72nd minute. A frustrated Dwyer would try to score again – this time the goal would have been good – but Miller quickly rejected his chance.

In an action-filled two minutes, Diomande and Diego Rossi scored back-to-back goals near the 82nd minute. Diomande finished a rebound off of Laurent Ciman that sent Orlando scrambling to save it but the ball bounces off the crossbar over the line awarding the black-and-gold their third goal.

The dramatic play sparked an energy in the team as Diego Rossi slides one past Joe Bendik off a cross from Blessing securing LAFC’s 4-1 victory.

Additionally, Carlos Vela and Marco Ureña returned to Los Angeles from the 2018 World Cup to help their team win. Welcome back!

Now sitting in third place in the Western Conference, LAFC will host the Portland Timbers – the first of their two back-to-back meetings – on Sunday, July 15th. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. PT.

Featured image: @LAFC

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Rainy Comeback: LAFC 2, Houston 2

Araceli Villanueva - LAFC/mlsfemale
Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Even mother nature couldn’t stop the comeback that was going to happen. LAFC earns one point in a 2-2 draw against Houston.

After the hour and a half rain delay, the black-and-gold kicked things off with an early goal in the first five minutes. Lee Nguyen, in his 200th MLS appearance, fed the ball from outside the box to Adama Diomande – whom then connected with Latif Blessing, who slotted the ball home giving LAFC their early lead.

The black-and-gold continued to dominate possession in the second half and was close to adding another to their lead in the 52nd minute. Benny Feilhaber started the strong play when he got the ball from Nguyen and passed it to Blessing.

Blessing tried to pass off to Diomande, but his pass was intercepted and deflected back to him. He then tried to pass again to Dio, although he may have been able to slot the ball home, and that pass was also deflected and then cleared.

The black-and-gold would create another dangerous play in the 72nd minute when Tyler Miller came out of his box to clear a through ball, which Walker Zimmerman then volleyed up the field. The ball then landed to Mark-Anthony Kaye, who looped the ball around to Diomande. Diomande sent the ball forward back to Kaye, who dribbled it past Senderos and slotted the ball into the back of the net extending the lead 2-0.

Just when you thought LAFC was going to return to the west coast with all three points, the host breathes life into the comeback quest after Mauro Manotas and Philippe Senderos leveled the match during stoppage time. Fortunately, time ran out before the host could put away a third – splitting points between both teams.

LAFC will host Orlando City on Saturday, July 7. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. PT.

Featured image of Nguyen: @LAFC

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LAFC advances to the Round of 16 in 2-0 victory over Fresno

Araceli Villanueva - LAFC/mlsfemale
Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Wednesday, June 6: 2-0 Win

Los Angeles Football Club advances to the Round of 16 of the U.S. Open Cup for the first time in club history in a 2-0 victory over Fresno FC at Banc at California Stadium on Wednesday. Diego Rossi and Latif Blessing scored the lone goals of the night.

The first half saw a battle of strong defense from both sides, however LAFC managed to create multiple chances around the 27th minute with chances from Calum Mallace and Walker Zimmerman. Despite their attempts, the game went into halftime scoreless.

The Foxes were close to opening up the scoring in the 49th minute when Danny Barrera whips a cross into the box, however, the ball landed in front of Agustin Cazarez who could not convert the chance.

Moments after Rossi replaced Adama Diomande, after leaving in extra time for a blow to the head – he gets the final touch and it trickles across the goal line to open the scoring in the 53rd minute. Just four minutes later, Blessing secured LAFC’s ticket to the Round of 16 after burying a loose ball in the box and doubling the score.

The Foxes continued to look for their first goal throughout the remainder of the half. In the 84th minute, Barrera sent a strike from 30 yards out but Tyler Miller was quick to deny Barrera giving the black and gold their first-ever U.S. Open Cup victory.

LAFC will host Sacramento Republic FC on Wednesday, June 20.

Featured image: @LAFC

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A Brace? What a Blessing!

Kirsten Arpin - Sporting Kansas City/mlsfemale
Official Sporting Kansas City Reporter

By Kirsten Arpin // @Kirsten_Hoogs

Saturday, May 13: 2-2 Draw

Man, the wordplay is…well it’s something I guess.

Here we are with another short week for Sporting KC. A game against Orlando City FC on Saturday, and then one against the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday night. So that leaves us with some quick fire articles.

On Saturday my husband and I were driving to the watch party for the game only to get stuck in a traffic jam where the main highway into downtown KC was closed for construction. Then we had to navigate the patrons for the Garth Brooks concert at the Sprint Center, and after that we got to walk through a country concert at KC Live in Power and Light. Quick note: We are not country people. We walked through this concert wearing Vans and Sambas so that we could get to No Other Pub. There were soooo many pairs of boots.

After the saga of getting to the watch party, we finally made it around the 11th minute. By that time, Latif Blessing had already scored his first goal! Ilie fed a ball up to Gerso who looked like he was going to shoot it, but he sent in a cross that tipped off a sliding Matt Besler and Latif tapped it in. The goal came off of a cleared setpiece hence Besler still being up front. Not going to lie, but I’m lucky that this game was the MLS Condensed Game of the Week or I would have just been confused… If the darn highlights started just a smidge earlier. Also, darn you Garth Brooks!

Orlando came back pretty quickly when Cyle Larin snuck onside and past our defense to score their first goal. There was a slight uproar in twitter land about Larin being unmarked, and that seems founded. The defenders did seem mighty occupied with the cross. Ten minutes later there was an Orlando City breakaway, and Kaka found the back of the net. It was a beautifully handled ball, so I’ll say I can’t be too mad. That’s a lie. I hate losing, but it was a pretty play.

Until Latif’s second goal, we’ll get to that in a second, all I could think was, “We have to get a goal. Our offense looks too solid and too organized to not get one.” But all we were getting were good runs into the attacking third and lots of possession time. It seemed that Sporting was utilizing their strong passing game almost to a fault. We’d pass the ball around and let Orlando City flood the box with defenders. There was finally a crack in the defense when Gerso got the ball to Benny Feilhaber who played an on target shot that was deflected by Joe Bendik straight to Latif who tapped another short goal. There was definitely an undercurrent of “Finally!” to the celebrations at No Other Pub!

Let’s talk about Bendik right quick. Here in KC we have one of the best keepers in the league. Maybe the best this season. His name is Tim Melia. He is a unicorn, a hero, and a class act. I have not seen Tim Melia lean over a player from the opposing team and scream in his face no matter the circumstance. Joe Bendik leaned over Latif Blessing twice and screamed in his face. I understand that Latif dove a few times, and one or two were blatant. Knowing Peter Vermes, I also doubt that Latif will be doing that anymore. Joe Bendik needs to back off. Did it hurt him, no. Maybe he should have stopped those goals.

Fun Facts

Tim Melia and Ike Opara have been named to the MLS First Quarter Best XI. Sporting’s two players tie them with Orlando City for having the most players on the team.

Mo Johnson will be added to the Sporting Legends on Wednesday which is also Retro Night! Get ready to see a bunch of Charlie Brown jerseys!

Three Sporting KC players completed over 96% of their passes in game against Orlando City…passing game on point.

See you all on Wednesday for SKC v SEA! No Joevin Jones for Seattle. Bring it on, Deuce!

#WeTogether

Featured image courtesy: @SportingKC

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