LOS ANGELES — A few minutes toward the end of the first half told the full story.
San Jose Earthquakes coach Matias Almeyda was ejected, yelling at coaches, the refs and fans on his way out. Then Carlos Vela took his play to another level and wrecked any and every defender en route to his finest goal of the season, a Messi-esque piece of wizardry that helped give LAFC a 4-0 win over San Jose to kick off MLS rivalry week.
Seriously, check out his 26th goal in 25 games:
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) August 22, 2019
It was just a different night at Banc of California Stadium. The fans were a little louder and LAFC was a little crisper on the pitch.
Doesn’t matter if their goal differential is greater than any other team’s point total this season. Manager Bob Bradley has his squad walking a fine line and hungry for more whenever they step foot on the field.
“There’s no such thing as taking your foot off the gas or maybe this game doesn’t matter,” Bradley said. “You want to win every game, be a better team, play great football for 90 minutes.”
Wednesday was no different. Six minutes in, Eduard Atuesta filtered an incredible through-ball to set up the opening goal. Josh Perez was at the end of the pass, and when his shot was blocked by Quakes keeper Daniel Vega it fell perfectly to Diego Rossi for his 14th goal of the campaign.
Video review awarded LAFC a penalty kick about 10 minutes later for a handball in the box, and it was 2-0 before San Jose could even get comfortable.
Bradley, meanwhile, was composed as ever. Even when Almeyda was getting thrown out behind him, he stood with arms crossed, per usual.
“I think it’s the culture from day one, an identity we have as a team,” said defender Tristan Blackmon.
While LAFC maintains a game-to-game focus, controlling this match was very much about preparing for Sunday’s anticipated “El Trafico” clash against the Los Angeles Galaxy as well. A crucial piece of the backline, Walker Zimmerman, sat out because he received a red card in the previous game. Bradley tinkered with the lineup as much as his depth allowed to give players some necessary rest.
Adama Diomande came on in the 63rd minute for Rossi. Lee Ngyuen got the start for Mark-Anthony Kaye, who entered the game in the final 20 minutes and picked up an assist on Perez’s first MLS goal.
Even a masked Mohamed El-Munir got his first minutes since suffering a fractured bone in his face after a clash with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, giving Jordan Harvey the latter part of the game off.
They all helped LAFC maintain its dominance over the Quakes, with 18 goals and five wins now in the head-to-head series.
Almeyda sent a few subliminal messages at Bradley earlier this week saying, “Humility in human beings is a fundamental factor. It is one of the prettiest, purest feelings – being humble and being respectful.”
Those few minutes towards the end of the first half showed exactly that. Only it was the messenger going against his word while Bradley watched along at ease.
It’s what helped Vela respond the way he did, and what’s helped LAFC do what it’s done this season.
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