Despite Ryan Hollingshead and Franco Jara scoring first-half goals for FC Dallas, Cristian Arango powered LAFC with a hat trick – including two goals within four crucial late-match minutes – for a 3-2 away win at Toyota Stadium on Wednesday night that officially eliminated the hosts from the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs race.
The result pulled LAFC to the edge of the Western Conference's playoff line, and got Arango to an impressive 11 goals in just 13 matches as a midseason addition, while a Ricardo Pepi-less FCD continued their late-season swoon.
The hosts earned a 10th-minute lead, with Hollingshead the recipient of excellent team ball movement around the box. Ema Twumasi started the sequence and Jader Obrian took his pass, slotted it to Jesus Ferreira and Ferreira's pass put it on a platter for the defender to score.
A minute later, Jara nearly chipped Jamal Blackman on a cheeky attempt, but his attempt bounced off the crossbar and Paxton Pomykal couldn't beat Blackman on the put-back shot. FC Dallas then heaped more pressure on LAFC's backline, nearly engineering what would have been a Marco Farfan own goal, though Farfan's interruption of a cross went just wide of the post.
LAFC head coach Bob Bradley decided a tactical change was in order, going from a 3-5-2 to a 4-3-3 by subbing in Raheem Edwards and Bryce Duke for Farfan and Daniel Crisostomo in the 27th minute. The personnel change paid near-immediate dividends, with Edwards drawing a penalty in the box from Matt Hedges. Following Video Review confirmation, Arango took his PK, and though FCD goalkeeper Phelipe got a glove to it, Arango put enough sauce on it to get it over the line despite the deflection.
Right before the end of the first half, FC Dallas got out on a breakaway, and Obrian led Jara in on goal to finish definitively.
After LAFC had a near-escape to avoid falling further behind, the visitors pressed for a goal to bring them back level. And Arango did just that, getting his 10th goal of the season but then staying down in front of goal with an apparent leg injury while Video Review confirmed the equalizer.
Arango swiftly recovered and got his hat trick four minutes later, catching a deflected ball from Twumasi and getting on the end of a long Mamadou Fall cross that sizzled across the goalmouth. That was enough for LAFC to get their first lead of the night, and they made it stick to an end that included six minutes of stoppage time.
- THE BIG PICTURE: LAFC, who looked in peril during this match early on, recovered for what could emerge as a season-saving win. FC Dallas, meanwhile, looked as if they’d have a chance to reward interim head coach Marco Ferruzzi with a win, but it wasn’t meant to be. FCD now have three losses and a draw since letting Luchi Gonzalez go.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: After looking like he might not be able to continue, Arango banged home the match-winner to continue what’s been an incredible start to his MLS career since joining in August from Millonarios in Colombia's top flight.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Really, could it be anyone else but Arango?
- DAL: Saturday, Oct. 23 vs. LA Galaxy | 10 pm ET (UniMas, TUDN, Twitter)
- LAFC: Saturday, Oct. 23 at Minnesota United FC | 8 pm ET (MLS LIVE on ESPN+)