LAFC dominates Revolution to hand Bruce Arena his first loss
On the schedule and in the standings, LAFC’s 2-0 win over the New England Revolution on Saturday doesn’t look like anything special.
But if the team goes on to win the title, LAFC might look back on this game as something of a turning point.
“Winning these games, it’s great. But the ultimate prize at the end of the day is an MLS Cup,” defender Steven Beitashour said. “So we’re working on getting better every single week and improving and really fine-tuning ourselves for the playoffs.
“If you don’t win the trophy at the end of the day, no one’s going to talk about you.”
LAFC checked off a lot of boxes on that list Saturday.
Offensively it got a first-half goal from Diego Rossi and a second-half score from Latif Blessing. It outshot New England 22-10, completed more passes than its opponent attempted and stopped the Revolution’s 11-game unbeaten streak while handing Bruce Arena his first loss as the team’s coach.
On Saturday, old friends faced off in New England when Bob Bradley’s LAFC team, the best team in the MLS, faced Bruce Arena’s Revolution, which hasn’t lost since he took over as coach in May.
But it was what LAFC didn’t do that may have mattered most, because for the first time in nearly three months, LAFC didn’t give up a goal, ending a streak of nine games without a shutout, a franchise record.
“Tonight was an all-around performance,” Beitashour continued. “Offensively, defensively, midfield was good. We didn’t take unnecessary risks.
“Just to go on the road and get a result against a team that’s been on a roll [was big].”
About the only thing LAFC lacked was a goal from Carlos Vela, who was kept off the scoresheet for only the second time in his last 11 starts. But Rossi made that unnecessary in the eighth minute, looping a top-spin volley from the left wing into the netting on the far side.
The sequence began with Jordan Harvey sending a long ball over the top that Rossi raced onto, chested down on the bounce, then lifted over New England keeper Matt Turner and under the crossbar for his fifth goal in six games.
That was a good omen since LAFC (an MLS-best 16-3-4) came into the night having won 10 of 11 games in which it scored first. It didn’t lose this one either.
New England (9-9-6) had a golden opportunity to pull even in the 50th when Teal Bunbury got away from LAFC defender Walker Zimmerman at midfield and raced in on keeper Tyler Miller. But he pushed a right-footed shot from just inside the penalty area well wide of the far post.
That allowed Blessing to put the game away in the 72nd minute, deking defender Andrew Farrell to the ground and lifting a left-footed shot by Turner from close range, ending a pretty six-pass sequence in which LAFC worked the ball around the box.
The focus then turned to Miller, who leads the league with 13 wins and is tied for the Western Conference lead with seven shutouts, although Saturday’s was his first clean sheet since May 16.
“We know that one of the reasons we’ve been so successful this year is yes, our potent offense and how well they’ve been doing. But [also] how solid our defense has been,” Miller said. “We lost that a little bit.
“Tonight was a big game for us to really step up and it was a full team effort in keeping the zero.”
Added Beitashour: “Hopefully this will be the turning point.”