Adama Diomande entered LAFC’s game against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday evening with an already-prolific tally of four goals in four games. As he came off to a standing ovation in the 75th minute at Banc of California Stadium, he’d improved that to seven goals in five games, scoring the first hat trick in LAFC history and helping his team to a 4-1 victory.
Diomande’s goals came in the 25th, 43rd and 55th minutes as LAFC won its fifth in a row, including two games in the U.S. Open Cup.
Through the first 20 minutes, the teams combined for just one shot, an effort from Union midfielder Marcus Epps that flew over the crossbar. But in the 25th minute, LAFC winger Latif Blessing found Diomande deep in Philadelphia territory and the Norwegian striker turned turned left and right to beat defender Mark McKenzie before shooting into the bottom corner.
LAFC had further chances through Diomande and Laurent Ciman — after both found themselves on the end of passes from Blessing — but neither could score. In the 43rd minute, Mark-Anthony Kaye found Blessing, who passed to Benny Feilhaber. Feilhaber gave it back to Kaye, who drew the attention of four defenders and goalkeeper Andre Blake, leaving Diomande with an open net for his second goal.
LAFC coach Bob Bradley said he hoped to see passing moves of that manner more regularly going forward.
“The timing, the movement, understanding the quality of the passes — I keep trying to say there’s more of that in us,” Bradley said.
Almost immediately afterward though, Kevin Miller parried Epps’ cross straight to the feet of Fabrice-Jean Picault, who made it 2-1 just before halftime.
Ten minutes into the second half, LAFC restored the two-goal advantage, as another team move was finished by Diomande from close range. This time, Lee Nguyen exchanged passes with Joao Moutinho before slipping a pass through to Aaron Kovar. Kovar found Blessing in front of the goal and although the Ghanaian winger couldn’t get clean contact on his attempted shot, it made for another assist as the ball wound up with Diomande inside the six-yard box and the striker volleyed in his hat-trick goal.
“The goals are great,” Bradley said of his striker’s performance. “I know they’ll keep coming because of the way he moves. But I was very pleased with the quality of some of his touches and passing too.”
LAFC briefly thought they had another in the 78th minute, as Kovar’s shot from distance came off the post and into the path of Blessing, who put the ball in the net only to find he was offside. Six minutes into stoppage time, Nguyen capitalized on an error from Warren Creavalle and found himself one-on-one with Blake. The Union goalkeeper made the save, but Blessing struck the rebound high into the net right before the final whistle.
The victory keeps LAFC (9-4-3) in third place in the Western Conference, but now leaves Bradley’s team only two points behind first-place Sporting Kansas City having played one fewer game. LAFC will have a chance to, at least temporarily, move to the top of the West when they travel to Houston on Tuesday, with the two teams above them playing the next day.