LOS ANGELES — Around the hour mark of Sunday afternoon’s 2-2 draw at Banc of California Stadium, LAFC defender Steven Beitashour stepped in front of Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s Alphonso Davies and swiped the ball away from the young starlet before he could initiate the Whitecaps' counterattack.
It was the type of close-down defending LAFC had lacked at times in the first half, where the future Bayern Munich teenager found ample space to torment the defenders on their home turf.
“We obviously talked about transition before the game,” said coach Bob Bradley after the match. “What we did better was that we were more aggressive to push up faster. The first player around the ball when you lose it is the key. You’re not looking for that player to win it but you’re looking for that player to put enough pressure so that others can come together and then you take care of the problem there and you don’t have to run 80 yards to put out an emergency.”
In the first half, the most dangerous of the youngster’s runs led to the 22nd-minute penalty, converted by Yordy Reyna, that helped stop Vancouver’s bleeding at a time that Diego Rossi looked for all the world like he was destined for a first-half hat trick, having scored at the 5th and 15th minute marks.
Indeed, the LAFC attack trio of Rossi, Adama Diomande and Carlos Vela – all of whom have more than 10 goals on the season — looked as sharp as it was productive in the first half-hour, even in the period immediately following Vancouver's goal.
Aaron Kovar, who has started the past three matches, and Lee Nguyen did their part to keep pushing for a third first-half goal, but ultimately LAFC’s early lead had disappeared by the 65th minute when substitute Jordon Mutch belted a screamer from well outside the area to make it 2-2.
“For me, it’s a bad tie,” said Bradley following the match. “It’s two points that we let get away. We’ve done it before this year. If you do it late in the year, obviously it feels worse.”
Though there were several chances late in the game for LAFC to win it, they were ultimately left with a feeling that the time for them to give up leads in games must end now — the playoffs, in their eyes, start next Sunday in Kansas City on Decision Day presented by AT&T, where they will have a chance to finish as low as fourth place or as high as first in the Western Conference in their inaugural campaign.
“For us, going [to Kansas City], it’s going to be a playoff match,” Beitashour said afterward. “Obviously if we win, we know we can be Western Conference champs, but it’s going to be a very difficult game and that’s how we’re going to have to treat it, like it’s the first playoff game.”