Finally, LAFC have proven they can win on the road in 2020 after their 3-1 victory over Real Salt Lake on Sunday night at Rio Tinto Stadium. Now RSL must prove it can earn points without Albert Rusnak for an extended stretch.
Bradley Wright-Phillips, Diego Rossi and Brian Rodriguez scored for LAFC, which finally snapped a four-match away losing skid with a victory that took them up three places to fifth in the Western Conference standings.
"Important win," declared LAFC manager Bob Bradley afterward. "Not our best football, it’s not an easy game to play. But the resiliency is important. We scored three very good goals and then after the own goal I thought we did a very good job of concentrating and finishing out the match. In this crazy season it’s our first road win. Sometimes on the road you don’t play as well as you’d like but you find ways to win and I think that’s a credit to the players."
And despite not being at their best soccer-wise on Sunday night, LAFC were upbeat about their ability to grind through it in a season where they have often looked shaky, most recently as they coughed up a 1-0 lead to the San Jose Earthquakes in a 2-1 defeat last Sunday.
“Today it wasn’t the prettiest but we got three points,” said Wright-Phillips. “We kept the win and that’s what we needed to do. It’s an important one for us.”
With this version of LAFC failing to earn points at a rate close to last years' Supporters' Shield-winning side, the reality is they'll eventually have to win again on the road this postseason if they want to lift silverware.
They'll also have to grow in confidence defensively, another work in progress. But Pablo Sisniega continues to earn Bradley's confidence in goal after winning the job in mid-season. He deserved a shutout Sunday, and was instead forced to settle for merely a victory after one of his better saves was deflected across the line by Eduard Atuesta for an own goal.
"I know that he feels that he’s starting to get that extra little bit of confidence," Bradley said of Sisniega. "Whenever you give up goal on a night you’re hoping for a shutout, you look back on it in a way where you’re disappointed for Pablo. It happened late in the San Jose win at home (on Sept. 2) and tonight’s an own goal. But I think in all ways you can see his confidence has grown, and he’s become a bigger presence in the goal. He still makes some really important saves, so it’s nice to see."
As for RSL, they weren't necessarily much worse than the visitors in terms of building attacks without the creative maestro Rusnak, who is away with the Slovakia nationaI team and faces a quarantine upon his return. Instead, it was finishing product that lacked after halftime as they tried to climb back in the game.
Freddy Juarez's RSL side currently hold the eighth and final playoff berth in the West, but the second-year manager knows they will have to improve upon that wastefulness, since the chances might not be quite as frequent.
"When we started the second half, and guys were full of energy, and also were creating chances, and we missed three or four again right there, and we could've been in the game at 2-1 or 2-2 right away," Juarez said. "It didn't happen. I don't think it was about necessarily guys being in different positions. ... I think it was more of just, you go down a goal and you lose focus."