LOS ANGELES – In the 67th minute of LAFC’s match vs. New York City FC on Sunday, Carlos Vela calmly settled a loose ball deep in the visitors’ penalty box before he buried a rare right-footed blast into the net.
The first goal LAFC have ever scored in Banc of California Stadium’s North End, home to its raucous 3252 supporters’ section, there was a sense that the Mexican international’s strike would be a match winner — if not the catalyst for more goals for the home side.
“When we got to 2-1, I felt like 3-1 was coming any second,” said LAFC coach Bob Bradley postgame. “I was very pleased with the push to win the game.”
Patrick Viera had other plans.
Minutes after Vela put LAFC ahead in the 66th minute, NYCFC’s coach made the bold move of bringing on Libyan-Swiss attacker Ismael Tajouri-Shradi for defender Ben Sweat. By the 75th minute, the score was level and the two sides would end an entertaining match with a share of the spoils.
“We concede [Vela’s] goal and I looked at the time, there wasn’t so many minutes to go,” said Viera of bringing on Tajouri-Shradi. “I was really pleased because of course Ismael gets the goal, but it was really in his mind, that’s what I want from players on the bench.”
Coming off a rough showing in last week’s 4-0 NY Derby loss to the New York Red Bulls, NYCFC were visibly riled up for Sunday’s contest and led in the early stages when David Villa finished the rebound of his own penalty kick attempt after it was saved by Tyler Miller.
But the home side never looked fazed.
“This game felt [like] there was more on the line,” said Bradley in the post-match press conference, adding that it was “the best game, the biggest test” of his team’s season so far.
Viera echoed the LAFC’s manager’s sentiment that the tight contest made for a compelling match between two teams who strive to play attacking football.
“I think Bob managed to build a really good side and I think they are one of the best teams we’ve faced so far in this league,” said Vieira. “They’ve got the quality, the pace and the individual quality to create danger at any time.”
The NYCFC boss was also impressed by the “unbelievable” atmosphere at Banc of California Stadium, as LAFC finished their four-game home stretch, adding that the quality of the pitch also helped create an entertaining spectacle for the sellout crowd of 22,000.
“I think good soccer was played between both teams,” Villa said. “There was a lot of intensity and at the end of the game, I think we saw what both teams were capable of on the field.”
With each side carving out ample chances to break the deadlock in the final 15 minutes, there was a sense that the result could go either way, as Vela articulated in his postgame remarks.
“Both teams played and we tried to win until the last minute. I think this was a good game for the fans,” said LAFC’s star. “We have to keep working, because we showed that we can play against one of the best teams in the league and this is the way to beat the other teams.”