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The Sports Report: LAFC is awakened from dream season

The Seattle Sounders celebrate their victory.
The Seattle Sounders celebrate their victory.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

LAFC

After the most successful regular season in MLS history, the playoff run LAFC figured would take it to a title ended prematurely in a 3-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference final, played before an unhappy crowd of more than 22,000 at Banc of California Stadium.

It was a disappointing end to a magical season, one in which the second-year team broke the MLS record for points in a season and tied the record for goals while its captain, Carlos Vela, became the all-time single-season scoring leader.

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But Vela didn’t score Tuesday for the first time in 11 starts, and his teammates failed to pick up the slack, with Eduard Atuesta’s bending, first-half free kick accounting for LAFC’s only score.

Seattle answered with goals from Raul Ruidiaz and Nicolas Lodeiro four minutes apart midway through the opening period, and a second score from Ruidiaz 19 minutes into the second half.

LAFC had beaten the crosstown rival Galaxy five days earlier in an emotional playoff game both the team and its supporters embraced with fervor. Banc of California Stadium seemed oddly subdued by comparison Tuesday, with many in the stands booing at the final whistle.

LAFC (22-5-9) got on the scoreboard first with Atuesta curling a long, right-footed free kick past a diving Stefan Frei and into the back of the net near the left post in the 17th minute. Vela set up the play by drawing a foul from Seattle midfielder Gustav Svensson about 10 yards outside the 18-yard box.

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The lead lasted just five minutes though, with Ruidiaz, facing LAFC for the first time, spinning away from defender Eddie Segura at the top of the penalty area, then splitting Jordan Harvey and Walker Zimmerman on a dash into the box that ended with a right-footed shot over LAFC keeper Tyler Miller.

Four minutes later, the Sounders (19-10-8) took the lead for good with Lodeiro bouncing a low, left-footed shot by Segura and into the side netting from about 20 yards.

“It’s a season where there’s a lot of good things but it ends in a disappointing way,” coach Bob Bradley said. “We all feel that right now. In the moment the only thing every one of us feels is disappointment.”

Added Vela: “Nobody expected this end. In the playoffs we know it’s one game, 90 minutes. [But] in the end we have to be proud of what we did all year and learn.

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“We have to come back next year and be better.”

Read more:

Dylan Hernandez: LAFC’s loss to Sounders is the latest playoff choke job by an L.A. sports team

LAKERS

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George Mikan. Elgin Baylor. Wilt Chamberlain. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Shaquille O’Neal.

Now, Anthony Davis.

Lakers history is filled with big men who dazzled their fans and terrified opponents, and on Tuesday night Davis joined their very exclusive club. They are the only Lakers to have scored at least 40 points in a game where they also grabbed 20 rebounds.

Davis scored 40 points with 20 rebounds Tuesday night with two blocks, while playing only three quarters as the Lakers beat the Memphis Grizzlies 120-91. The Lakers improved to 3-1 for the first time since the 2010-11 season.

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“It’s an honor,” said Davis, following his fourth game as a Laker. “Great company. To be here part of this franchise and do something special like that and be on that list with those legends, means a lot to me. but what’s more important, I’m happy that we got the win.”

Davis made seven of 17 of his field goals and 26 of the 27 free throws he attempted, setting a franchise record for made free throws in a game. LeBron James added 23 points with eight assists and two rebounds.

Read more

Helene Elliott: Anthony Davis injury scare reminder of how critical he is to Lakers’ success

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CLIPPERS

The Clippers exercised its third-year option on Landry Shamet‘s contract. The 26th pick in the 2018 NBA draft will earn a little more than $2 million during the 2020-21 season.

Shamet, who has averaged 9.2 points per game for his career and shot 42% on three-pointers, earned NBA All-Rookie second-team honors last season.

The Clippers also picked up the third-year option on guard Jerome Robinson’s contract. Robinson, the 13th overall pick in the 2018 draft, will earn $3.7 million next season.

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WORLD SERIES

This World Series between the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros lacked memorable games before Tuesday. There was little drama and few thrills. There were zero suspenseful late-game twists and turns to speak of, The road team had won each of the first five games, but moments to remember when the years roll by were sparse.

Game 6 at Minute Maid Park changed all that. It featured a brilliant pitching performance from a former phenom and comedic petty showmanship from a current one. There were towering blasts off the bats of a few of the sport’s brightest stars, a controversial call that could have swung the series, and an enraged manager barreling through members of his coaching staff to prompt an ejection.

And when the wild night was over, once the 54th out was secured to conclude the three-hour-and-37-minute ride, the Nationals had won, 7-2, to force a winner-take-all Game 7 on Wednesday.

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For the first time in history, the road team has claimed each of the first six games of a World Series. For the Astros to claim their second title in three years, they’ll have to break the pattern and win at home. For the Nationals to seize their first championship, they’ll have to extend it to the end and win their fifth elimination game of the postseason.

Washington’s chances of survival Tuesday depended on Stephen Strasburg. He needed to bookend his dominant October with one final dominant performance, and he delivered. The right-hander outdueled Justin Verlander, pitching into the ninth inning after overcoming rocky first inning. He held the high-voltage Astros to two runs on five hits across 8 1/3 innings. He struck out seven, walked two, and exited in the ninth inning after throwing 104 pitches.

Alex Bregman gave Houston the early lead when he hammered a center-cut fastball for a solo home run. Bregman admired his blast, but opted against the trendy bat flip. Instead, he carried his bat all the way to first base. He tried handing it to the first base coach Don Kelly, but botched the transfer. The bat rolled onto the field. Kelly scampered to pick it up as Bregman trotted to second base and Minute Maid Park rocked.

The Nationals made Verlander throw 75 pitches through four innings and the work bore fruit in the fifth. Adam Eaton ditched bunting to swat a home run to tie the game. Two batters later, Juan Soto was at the plate. On the fifth pitch, he demolished a fastball to the upper deck beyond the right-field wall. In response to Bregman, he carried his bat to first base and dropped it in front of Nationals first base coach Tim Bogar.

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“I thought it was pretty cool,” Soto said with a smile. “I wanted to do it.”

WORLD SERIES SCHEDULE

All times Pacific. All games on Fox.

Game 1: Washington 5, at Houston 4

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Game 2: Washington 12, at Houston 3

Game 3: Houston 4, at Washington 1

Game 4: Houston 8, at Washington 1

Game 5: Houston 7, at Washington 1

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Game 6: Washington 7, at Houston 2

Game 7: Today, Washington at Houston, 5 p.m.

*-if necessary

DUCKS

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Cam Fowler set a franchise record for career goals by a Ducks defenseman in their 7-4 win over the Winnipeg Jets.

John Gibson made 36 saves and Josh Mahura tied an Anaheim rookie mark with three assists.

Fowler tied it 1-1 at 10:01 of the first period, scoring his 61st goal to pass Scott Niedermayer for the team lead among defensemen. Fowler, who did it in 634 games, scored on a wrist shot from the right circle following a quick breakout by the Ducks from their own zone.

Niedermayer scored 60 goals in 317 games during five seasons with the Ducks.

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KINGS

It only took one weekend to turn the early narrative of this Kings season on its head.

Entering play Thursday, the rebuilding club had authored an auspicious start. In their first nine games, the Kings had won four times (all against playoff teams from last season), made seemingly quick progress adapting to new coach Todd McLellan’s system, and had the best shot differential in the NHL — a statistic that usually correlates with success.

Then, in an untimely throwback to last season, they tripped over themselves. By the time they reassembled in Los Angeles on Tuesday — on the heels of a four-day stretch that saw them lose three games by a combined 15-4 — the Kings (4-8-0) had slipped to the bottom of the Western Conference standings, suddenly struggling to keep all their early progress from coming undone.

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“We’re going to have to fix it,” McLellan said.

In the interim, they are stuck with a roster in transition, one still largely built under the guise of heavy, defense-first hockey — the decade-old ideology the franchise is trying to phase out.

McLellan believes the team can blend the two realities, broaching the question himself during his post-practice chat Tuesday with reporters.

“Are we equipped to play the structure we’re putting in place? The answer would be, yeah, for the most part,” he said.

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USC FOOTBALL

It wasn’t a touchdown. It wasn’t even a first down. But Kedon Slovis’ 19-yard strike to Drake London on second and 20 against Colorado last Friday still sticks in Graham Harrell’s mind four days later.

To the first-year USC offensive coordinator, watching Slovis thread a ball up the seam to London may have been akin to a parent watching his child go from crawling to walking to running over the course of three weeks.

“In Notre Dame, we had that exact same situation and he didn’t throw it,” Harrell said of having London over the middle covered by just one defender whose back was turned to the quarterback.

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Against Arizona, Slovis did throw it, earning a third-down completion in the 41-14 blowout. Then the freshman quarterback graduated to the highest level last week against Colorado as Slovis’ key pass to London contributed to USC’s game-winning drive.

“When the game’s up on the line in a big situation and [to] see him make that throw again and trust Drake and see Drake come up with it, I think it’s going to give them both a ton of confidence,” Harrell said Tuesday.

The Trojans, who host No. 7 Oregon on Saturday, are in the driver’s seat of the Pac-12 South with key freshmen emerging at quarterback, receiver and running back. Since returning from a concussion, Slovis has thrown eight touchdowns to just one interception in the last three games. London, a freshman from Moorpark High, has 137 of his season-total 199 yards receiving in the last two games. Injuries depleted USC’s stable of running backs, but they’ve revealed a budding star in freshman Kenan Christon, who has 179 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the last two games.

UCLA FOOTBALL

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Sophomore running back Martell Irby made a career-high three catches out of the backfield against Arizona State last weekend as part of what might be called the team’s Demetric Felton Jr. package.

”It for sure has become a bigger part of our offense with the effectiveness Demetric showed coming out the backfield,” Irby said.

Felton’s 36 catches and 439 yards receiving lead the team, and with four games to play, he has already tied the school’s single-season record for catches by a running back. Irby had never caught more than two passes in a game before Saturday.

“It just so happened that the defense was dropping out and I was open in the middle of the field, or I was open in the flat,” Irby said, “so I just capitalized on the opportunities that I had.”

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It was Irby’s first appearance since late last month after he tweaked a hamstring that began bothering him the week of UCLA’s game against San Diego State on Sept. 7. He had just one carry against Arizona State, gaining two yards, but said he was happy to contribute wherever he’s asked.

“I like doing anything that I could help this team,” Irby said.

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

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Clippers at Utah, 7 p.m., Prime Ticket, ESPN, AM 570

Vancouver at Kings, 7:30 p.m., FSW

BORN ON THIS DATE

1898: Baseball player Bill Terry (d. 1989)

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1916: Baseball player Leon Day (d. 1995)

1927: Baseball player Joe Adcock (d. 1999)

1950: Basketball player Phil Chenier

1960: Soccer player Diego Maradona

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1989: Gymnast Nastia Liukin

DIED ON THIS DATE

2005: Baseball player/manager Al Lopez, 96

2015: Basketball player Mel Daniels, 71

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AND FINALLY

Diego Maradona‘s “Hand of God” goal. Watch it here.

That concludes the newsletter for today. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, please email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. If you want to subscribe, click here.


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