It was LAFC's first win of 2022 by a one-goal margin, coming on the road against a fired-up opponent that pounced first as halftime neared and required a comeback after being down 1-0 for just the third time this season. For head coach Steve Cherundolo, the result showed the team's character in pulling out the win and meeting his challenge at halftime.
"We are very happy with the result, three points on the road," Cherundolo began his post-match press conference. "It's never easy in MLS, so we are happy with that. We are not happy with the way we played. I think speaking about our game model and our philosophy and our way of playing, there was a lot missing tonight."
Cherundolo did note, however, that despite not showing their usual quality, his players' ability to come through and find two second-half goals for the win was satisfying.
"They've shown us time and time again that they are this and they want to be a team," he said of the second-half turnaround. "It's moments like these that make us even stronger. I challenged the group at halftime and said, 'You dug yourself a hole; get yourselves out.' And they did – not in the way we wanted to, but they did find the answers. As a coach, solutions are what matter... and as long as they're finding solutions, I'm happy."
LAFC had previously gone down 1-0 twice before this season – in a March 20 contest against the Whitecaps, as well as last Sunday versus Sporting Kansas City – but both times had the home crowd at Banc of California Stadium on their side and scored three uncontested goals to win by comfortable 3-1 margins. Against Cincy, it was on the road against a team that looked particularly up for a fight despite missing a number of regular starters, in a week that also brought a US Open Cup match into the mix.
"This team understands what it takes to win in this league," Cherundolo observed. "They understand that sometimes it hurts and you have to work hard. I can be proud of this group to put in the effort to come out on top. The difference was very slight today [between the teams], but I think there was a difference and we deserved to win."
"He just was just demanding of us, knowing we can play better," he explained. "It was just moving the ball quicker, more running, more urgency, eagerness to get forward and pressing and marking our man.
"I felt like in the second half we were able to get a little bit tighter, be more attacking minded and have better movement, and in the end we ended up scoring two good goals and got three points."
"I think everybody else responded really well with the adjustments," added substitute Danny Musovski, who scored the match-winner with 11 minutes left on the clock. "By the time I got into the game, I feel like the adjustment and the mindset had shifted. So I think Steve did a really good job making that clear to everybody, and then the I think everybody just did well to pull through and get the win."
The road to the Supporters' Shield won't get any easier for LAFC, as the upcoming month of May includes home matches against Austin FC and the Philadelphia Union – currently second and third in the race to the top. But Cherundolo welcomes the challenge, beginning his answer about the upcoming slate of opponents by simply saying: "Awesome."
"We love competitive games," he remarked. "This is what makes our sport grow and make it better. So, the bigger, the better. We are looking forward to these games. Any time we can all watch a high-quality game of football in the United States on national TV... all the better."