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LAFC falls 2-1 at Sporting Kansas City after player hit with red card

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LAFC forward Carlos Vela, left, stops a shot from Dallas FC midfielder Bryan Acosta
LAFC forward Carlos Vela, left, stops a shot from FC Dallas midfielder Bryan Acosta on Wednesday in Los Angeles.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

LAFC’s Tristan Blackmon was hit with a red card and Sporting Kansas City pounced, scoring two second-half goals en route to a home win

LAFC held a 1-0 halftime lead, but a red card changed the game.

Sporting Kansas City exploited gaps in LAFC’s 10-man lineup and scored two second-half goals to secure a home win.

LAFC surrenders late goal during 2-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City

Dániel Sallói scored his seventh goal of the season in the 87th minute, and Sporting Kansas City beat 10-man LAFC 2-1 on Saturday.

Sallói one-timed Felipe Hernandez’s pass from a narrow angle, and Sporting KC (7-3-2) held on for the remainder of the match, which included six minutes of stoppage time.

LAFC’s Tristan Blackmon was sent off in the 58th minute for pulling down Sallói in the denial of an obvious scoring opportunity.

Alan Pulido tied it for Sporting three minutes later, smashing home a putback after LAFC defender Marco Farfan misplayed Sallói’s cross.

Kim Moon-Hwan opened the scoring in the 24th minute for LAFC (3-4-3). He received José Cifuentes’ pass on the right side of the penalty area and cut back to create the lane for his first MLS goal.

Sporting KC solidified its second-place standing in the Western Conference and improved to 5-2-1 this season when conceding the opening goal.

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Tristan Blackmon hit with red card and Sporting KC scores equalizer

LAFC’s Tristan Blackmon was hit with a red card in the 58th minute after reaching out and grabbing the arm of a Sporting Kansas City as dribbled toward goal.

Sporting Kansas City’s ensuing direct kick was off target, but three minutes later SKC scored the equalizer.

Alan Pulido grabbed a poor clearance and fired home a left-footed shot from the center of the box, making the score 1-1.

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Kim Moon-Hwan scores first goal, lifts LAFC to 1-0 lead

Kim Moon-Hwan scored his first goal with LAFC.

José Cifuentes found Moon-Hwan on the right side of the box. Moon-Hwan weaved past two defenders, squared up and fired a left-footed shot from the center of the box to the bottom right corner to give LAFC a 1-0 lead in the 24th minute.

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LAFC opens with Carlos Vela, Corey Baird on bench

LAFC is set to play its third match in one week, leading to some lineup changes.

Captain Carlos Vela and top scorer Corey Baird will start the match at Sporting Kansas City on the bench.

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Carlos Vela, Latif Blessing lift LAFC to 2-0 win over Dallas FC

LAFC forward Carlos Vela is defended by Dallas FC defender Nkosi Burgess.
LAFC forward Carlos Vela is defended by Dallas FC defender Nkosi Burgess during the first half on Wednesday.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

LAFC has spent most of the MLS season closer to the Western Conference basement than the penthouse, a dramatic turn of events for a team that had the best regular-season record in league history less than two years ago.

But if the fall was rapid, the climb back up the conference standings will likely be a long and arduous one. And it’s one LAFC got a start on Wednesday, with Carlos Vela and Latif Blessing both scoring their first goals of the season to spark a 2-0 win over FC Dallas before a second straight announced sellout of more than 22,000 at Banc of California Stadium.

The victory was LAFC’s first in more than a month and just the second since opening day in mid-April. Equally as important was the play of Vela, who put LAFC ahead to stay in the fourth minute and picked up an assist on Blessing’s second-half score, his third in four games.

The LAFC captain broke the league’s scoring record in 2019 but injuries have limited him to nine regular-season starts since then and the team’s attack has suffered without him. That drought may soon be over: Vela took a game-high seven shots Wednesday, his most in a game in more than a year, before exiting in the 75th minute. He put three of those shots on target.

Lynn Williams was left off the final USWNT Olympic roster revealed Wednesday morning, arguably the biggest surprise move made by coach Vlatko Andonovski.

“That was the most dynamic he’s been for a while,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said. “He was a real threat on a number of occasions. Those are the things that obviously separate him when he’s at his best.”

Added Vela: “I’m starting to feel like I’m back. This is the Carlos my team expects.”

Yet for all that work, the win moved LAFC (3-3-3) up just two spots in the standings, leaving it eighth in the Western Conference.

“We just won one game,” Vela said “We have to get a rhythm. We have to win two, three, four in a row. We have much more to grow.”

Vela started the team’s comeback in the fourth minute Wednesday, finishing a neat give-and-go with Eduard Atuesta by skipping in a low left-footed shot from the center of the box. And he nearly got a second eight minutes later when his bending free kick from distance beat Dallas’ Jimmy Maurer, only to strike the near post.

Meanwhile Dallas (1-4-4), which remains buried in the conference cellar, didn’t test Tomas Romero, LAFC’s rookie keeper, until Ryan Hollingshead’s header two minutes into the second half. That proved to be the closest Dallas would come to making a game of it. Blessing doubled the lead 22 minutes later on a goal that was approved after referee Rosendo Mendoza had a short look at a video replay and LAFC was never in danger again.

“A good, solid win,” Bradley said. “Especially the second half. We had very good control.”

The road ahead — at least in the short term — remains a difficult one however because, well, it will mostly be on the road. Wednesday’s game was the last at home until July 17, with LAFC traveling to Kansas City on Saturday then Salt Lake City and Austin in the first week of July.

Mexican soccer federation again urges fans to stop using chant after FIFA hands toughest penalty to date in response to persistent use of anti-gay slur.

LAFC is winless on the road this season and the three teams it will face there next are a combined 6-1-5 at home. Adding to the degree of difficultly, LAFC will play those three games in two time zones during a 12-day period.

“Good things to take away,” Bradley said. “Now we’ve got to turn it around quickly.”

Bradley began preparing for that Wednesday, resting goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega and forward Corey Baird for the first time this season and giving forward Cal Jennings, defender Kim Moon-hwan and Romero their first MLS starts, with Romero marking his debut with a clean sheet.

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Latif Blessing scores to give LAFC 2-0 lead

Carlos Vela fed Latif Blessing in the box. Blessing delivered a right-footed shot to the bottom right corner.

After a VAR pause, officials determined Vela was onside during his run setting up the goal.

It gave LAFC a 2-0 lead over FC Dallas in the 69th minute.

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Look back at every LAFC goal scored so far this season

Carlos Vela broke through for his first goal of the 2021 season, helping LAFC secure a 1-0 halftime lead.

Click here to look back at every goal the team has scored so far this season, including Vela’s first half strike.

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Carlos Vela score in fourth minute to give LAFC 1-0 lead

Carlos Vela took a pass from Eduard Atuesta, turned and fired home a shot from the center of the box to the bottom right corner in the fourth minute, giving LAFC the early 1-0 lead.

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LAFC starts Tomas Romero in goal, Corey Baird is on the bench

LAFC coach Bob Bradley made a surprise change in goal, starting Tomas Romero. A closer look at the LAFC lineup:

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Dynamo slices up LAFC defense to tie match

Fafà Picault pushed past a pair of LAFC defenders to feed Maximiliano Urruti the ball at the top center of the box.

Urruti put home a contested shot, leveling the match 1-1 in the 58th minute.

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José Cifuentes taps in goal to give LAFC 1-0 lead

Carlos Vela redirected a corner to José Cifuentes, who tapped in a goal in the 50th minute to give LAFC a 1-0 lead.

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Video: Baby hawk alert! LAFC’s falcon handler introduces you to his flock

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LAFC knocks, but can’t put home a goal during first half

LAFC enters halftime locked in a scoreless draw with the Houston Dynamo at Banc of California Stadium, but the hosts created multiple first-half chances.

LAFC had 65% of possession and five shots, but none were on target.

The Dynamo, meanwhile, didn’t manage a shot.

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LAFC 3252 supporters fill Banc of California Stadium, unveil Bob Marley-inspired tifo

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Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi anchor LAFC starting XI

LAFC’s lineup is set for the club’s match against the Houston Dynamo. Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi were set to start after both were slowed by injuries early this season.

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LAFC fans resume tailgating around Banc of California Stadium

LAFC fans were cleared to resume tailgating for the first time in 15 months, celebrating around Banc of California Stadium on Saturday night.

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LAFC welcomes supporters back, but it could not give them a win

The tireless LAFC fans who fill the noisy north end of Banc of California Stadium are known collectively as the 3252, ostensibly because that’s the number of seats in the grandstand.

Consider that a rough estimate.

The real reason for the name is the numbers add up to 12, making the supporters in the north end — and throughout the stadium — the team’s 12th man. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, LAFC was playing a man down.

On Saturday, with restrictions on social distancing lifted, a crowd announced at 22,034 filled the Banc again, although most went away frustrated with José Cifuentes and Houston’s Maximiliano Urruti exchanging second-half goals in a 1-1 draw.

“It’s definitely different because we’ve gone for so long without fans,” LAFC midfielder Bryce Duke said. “It’s kind of weird to say this, [but] I miss not being to hear someone from like 10 feet away. I’m glad to have all the fans back, and I’m sure that they’re glad to be back.

“Definitely having the energetic fans, the 3252, a sold-out stadium, anybody who plays in that kind of atmosphere, it’s going to motivate them, make them want to play harder. It goes a long way. I don’t have words to explain how much it means to us.”

Added Cifuentes in Spanish: “Having the stadium was great for us, feeling the support of the fans.”

Since it entered the league in 2018, no MLS team has benefited from its home supporters more than LAFC, which sold out its first 36 regular-season games at Banc of California Stadium and lost just two of them.

Then the pandemic hit, forcing the team to play before empty seats or in a stadium less than half full, and LAFC lost three of its next 13 at home.

Some of that had to do with the absence of either Carlos Vela or Diego Rossi, the last two league scoring champions. Because of injuries, the pair started just four of those 13 matches together, but both were in the lineup Saturday, with Vela setting up the first goal with a left-footed corner that skipped through the box to an unmarked Cifuentes, who settled the one-hop cross with his midsection, then knocked it in with a right foot near the far post.

The goal, six minutes into the second half, was Cifuentes’ second in MLS while the assist was Vela’s second in three games.

“Cifu, I think, had his best game,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said. “He was more committed. He was involved in the game in a lot of good ways, including the goal.”

But the lead was short-lived. with Duke losing the ball deep in the LAFC end, starting a breakaway that ended with Urruti finishing from the middle of box in the 58th minute.

Six minutes later, Vela was subbed off, a substitution Bradley planned in the first of three games his team would play this week.

“We still have to manage his minutes,” Bradley said. “We have three games now in a week. And as we’ve gone through this last stretch, his ability still when we look at where he is minutes, so that we can continue to move him forward.”

Vela, 32, missed much of last season with an MCL tear in his left knee, then came out of this year’s opener with a right quadriceps injury that sidelined him for a month.

“The goal is to get Carlos back to his best level,” Bradley said. “One of the things that becomes so important to do that is [making] sure that when he’s on the field we are getting dynamic moves, taking the ball on the run, trying to go by people being a threat with some deep runs. Carlos can always play more minutes where he stands a little bit more, waits for the ball. But we know that that’s not the best version of Carlos.”

LAFC dominated possession, controlling the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game while outshooting Houston 15-3. But they only got one of those shots past Dynamo keeper Marko Maric.

The draw left LAFC (2-3-3) just two points out of the Western Conference cellar and three points back of Houston (3-3-3), which currently holds the conference’s final playoff spot.

LAFC and the Dynamo played to a 1-1 draw last month in Houston.

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Watch every LAFC goal scored so far this season

LAFC's Corey Baird faces off against Austin FC on April 17.
(Associated Press)

With stars Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi limited by injury issues, Corey Baird has led LAFC.

Click here to watch every goal the club has scored so far this season.

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