It wasn’t easy, but in the end LAFC achieved its main objective: earn three points.
On a hot Saturday afternoon at Banc of California Stadium, LAFC fueled its hopes of advancing to the MLS postseason with a 3-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes, a Western Conference rival.
With the result, LAFC (10-12-7) reached 37 points and moved up to No. 8 in the conference for the time being, sitting one spot out of the playoff qualifying zone. Real Salt Lake (39 points), the Galaxy (38 points) and Minnesota United (38 points) entered Saturday night matches in the Nos. 5, 6 and 7 spots, respectively, with a game in hand. San Jose (8-12-9) is in 10th place in the West with 33 points.
LAFC snapped a four-game winless streak. The last time it managed to earn three points was against Austin FC on Sept. 15. LAFC then had three losses and a draw. The team has five regular-season games left, the next two on the road (FC Dallas on Wednesday) and (Minnesota next Saturday).
“We talked about how important this home game was to get us going, get some momentum and then now carry that into these next two away games,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said.
The 3-1 score doesn’t tell the story of how difficult it was for LAFC to get the win. San Jose had a major edge in possession (61.2% to 36.5%) and earned more shots on goal (15-11).
But the home team made the most of its chances — especially Cristian Arango. The Colombian striker scored two goals Saturday and has a team-leading eight in 12 games since joining LAFC in early August. He also had an assist on Danny Musovski’s goal to open the scoring.
“When you step on the field, you know you’re playing with a guy who cares and has a real presence,” Bradley said of Arango.
Despite returning to training during the week, Carlos Vela did not dress for the match. Since late August, the Mexican striker has been dealing with a hamstring injury. He has now missed LAFC’s last nine matches.
LAFC opened the match focused. Three minutes into the game, before entering the left side of San Jose’s goal area, José Cifuentes sent a cross-field pass to Arango. Without hesitation, Arango sent the ball toward the heart of the goal with a heel pass. Musovski settled in for a right-footed shot that beat Earthquakes goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski.
In the 29th minute, LAFC expanded its lead. Arango was brought down in the San Jose penalty area by Jackson Yueill while trying to play the ball. LAFC was awarded a penalty kick that Arango converted.
“Scoring is important, but like I said hopefully we can continue growing and being impactful,” Arango said. “We were taking advantage of the small spaces, short spaces. We were pretty compact in our pressing, and this helped us be closer on recovering the ball. Had we converted each opportunity that we had, the score would have been greater.”
After a few promising chances by San Jose, Carlos Fierro scored for the Quakes in the 61st minute. The Mexican striker connected on a tight corner kick from Javier Lopez, beating LAFC goalkeeper Jamal Blackman at close range.
But in the 88th minute, LAFC sealed the game.
Brian Rodríguez, who replaced Musovski in the 76th minute, won a ball near midfield. The LAFC striker stepped on the gas, looked to his right and served a long pass to Arango, who finished the run with a shot from the center of the penalty area.
“On a hot day, our substitutes were important and obviously we got some really big plays, including in some really good individual efforts going forward,” Bradley said.
This article was first published in Spanish by Los Angeles Times en Español.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.