When the Los Angeles Football Club opened its $350-million home in Exposition Park last April, the goal was to make it more a fortress than a soccer stadium.
And while that worked through the team’s first 10 games at Banc of California Stadium, where LAFC was unbeaten, the fortress was breached Saturday, with Sporting Kansas City riding a first-half goal from Gerso Fernandes and a second-half penalty kick from Ilie Sanchez to a 2-0 victory.
The loss put LAFC in a tie for fourth in points with the Galaxy in the MLS Western Conference. It also extended the team’s winless streak in MLS to a season-high five games, dating to July 7. Its losing streak in all competitions is at three, a season worst.
Once the highest-scoring team in the league, LAFC has not averaged even a goal a game over the last month, getting shut out twice; it has given up 11 goals over that span.
And coach Bob Bradley has little time to regroup since LAFC will play two more times in the next eight days, the team’s fourth and fifth games in two weeks.
“We’re going to get better. We’ve got some important games coming up,” Bradley said. “If we’re being honest, we know this has been a tough stretch. When you are being tested you have to, as a team, fight through it. Now we’ve got to put it all together and be more consistent.”
In a nod to that crowded schedule, which included last Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup semifinal that went to overtime in humid Houston, Bradley made several changes to his lineup. Luis Lopez, expected to be LAFC’s first-choice keeper before being sidelined with a stress fracture, made his MLS debut, and midfielder Andre Horta and newly acquired defender Danilo Silva made their first starts.
Those three, along with midfielder Lee Nguyen,weren’t even in uniform when LAFC opened its season. Their unfamiliarity showed in the 17th minute, when the makeshift lineup allowed Kansas City’s first goal. The sequence began with Diego Rossi getting stripped of the ball in the LAFC end, leading to a counterattack that ended with Fernandes slotting a feed from Diego Rubio into the far corner for his third goal of the season.
LAFC (10-7-6) had a chance to pull even eight minutes later, but Marco Urena’s shot from the edge of the six-yard box sailed well over the crossbar. That was the closest LAFC came to a shot on goal in the first half, one in which it was dominated in virtually every phase of the game.
It was arguably the team’s worst 45 minutes of the season at home. And the second half didn’t start much better, with Daniel Salloi nearly scoring in the 52nd minute with a right-footed shot that went just wide.
Five minutes later, Bradley went to his bench, bringing on Carlos Vela and Latif Blessing in an effort to boost his attack. But the game’s only other score went to Kansas City (11-6-6), with Sanchez converting a penalty kick awarded after LAFC’s Dejan Jakovic inadvertently struck Felipe Gutierrez with a high boot trying to clear a ball from in front of the goal.