LAFC rode a dominant first half to three huge points Tuesday night in the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs race, cruising to a 3-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders at Banc of California Stadium behind goals from Brian Rodriguez, Latif Blessing and Cristian Arango.
HIGHLIGHTS: Los Angeles Football Club vs. Seattle Sounders FC | October 26, 2021
The hosts controlled the contest from the onset, breaking through via Rodriguez's 21st-minute opener before Blessing and Arango added insurance tallies that sealed off the comfortable result. With the victory, Bob Bradley's group temporarily vaults above the Western Conference's playoff line, drawing even with Vancouver Whitecaps FC on 44 points and claiming possession of the No. 7 spot via the total wins tiebreaker.
LAFC opened the scoring through Rodriguez's third goal of the season, as the Uruguayan ran onto a through ball from Raheem Edwards behind Seattle's backline, sneaking his finish through goalkeeper Stefan Frei's legs.
Blessing then doubled the advantage right on the stroke of halftime, as the Ghanaian pounced on a deflected cross from the right side by Kim Moon-hwan and slotted home the close-range finish from a difficult angle, staking LAFC to a 2-0 lead.
Seattle looked reinvigorated after the second-half kickoff, narrowly missing a pair of dangerous chances. The first came from Nouhou, who blasted a thundering header off the post, denying the Cameroonian his first MLS goal by inches. Fredy Montero got behind LAFC's defense shortly thereafter but his close-range effort was stonewalled by LAFC goalkeeper Jamal Blackman, who made several key saves during the second half.
The missed opportunities proved crucial, as Arango added LAFC's third in the 51st minute – effectively putting the contest to bed – with a slicing distance shot that deflected off Xavier Arreaga and settled into the net.
Seattle did get one positive in the return of Nicolas Lodeiro, who entered as a second-half substitute for his first appearance since Sept. 11. The star playmaker nearly scored a highlight-reel goal after his entrance, but LAFC ultimately preserved the clean sheet.
- THE BIG PICTURE: LAFC had their playoff lives on the line, and they played like it. They still have work to do to salvage a postseason berth from their erratic season, but this result gives LAFC a fighting chance. Seattle continued a lull in form that has seen the Rave Green drop three out of their last four matches. Lodeiro's return, as well as those of Raul Ruidiaz and Jordan Morris – expected imminently – give reason to believe they can turn it around for the playoffs. But the danger is very real that the Sounders will lose their grasp on the West's No. 1 seed in the meantime.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: If the Sounders reached halftime at 1-0, a comeback would have been far more manageable. That made Blessing's strike just before the break increasingly crucial.
GOAL: Latif Blessing, LAFC - 48th minute
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Cristian Arango continues to be an absolute revelation for LAFC, maintaining his torrid pace since joining the club in August with yet another goal. The Colombian is now up to 13 goals and two assists through his first 15 games.
GOAL: Cristian Arango, LAFC - 51st minute
- LAFC: Tuesday, November 2 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps | 10:30 pm ET (MLS LIVE on ESPN+)
- SEA: Monday, November 1 vs. LA Galaxy | 10 pm ET (TUDN, Twitter)