Out to complete a home sweep of the West’s best, the Columbus Crew SC look to topple conference-leading Los Angeles FC on Saturday.
Columbus (5-1-6) snapped a five-game losing streak in emphatic fashion Wednesday night, defeating the Los Angeles Galaxy 3-1. Gyasi Zardes got the best of his former team, re-directing Robinho’s well-placed cross in the 27th minute to open the scoring and then setting up Federico Higuain’s marker on 53 minutes.
The win, which also knocked the Galaxy out of first place in the West behind Los Angeles FC, also spoiled the return of club legend Guillermo Barros Schelotto – the MLS Cup MVP for the Crew in 2008 and the Galaxy’s current coach. Zardes’ goal ended a stretch of 477 minutes of playing without the lead and a 318-minute run without a goal by a Crew player since Pedro Santos’ finish in a 3-1 loss to Portland on April 20.
“We have to win with the team,” Crew SC coach Caleb Porter told the team’s official website. “I said it to the guys before the game, a team that’s together 11 guys in soccer can beat individuals, and I thought that showed (Wednesday) and I’m very proud of the group.”
Higuain, who got credit for a secondary assist on Zardes’ goal, became the Crew’s all-time leader with 62, passing Robert Warzycha.
The next step is for Columbus to tighten its defense – the Crew have gone six matches without a clean sheet after recording four in their first six. There were points to build on from Wednesday’s win as Columbus limited the Galaxy to three shots on target – center backs Jonathan Mensah and Gaston Sauro were instrumental in limiting Zlatan Ibrahimovic to one shot on target.
Los Angeles FC (7-3-1), though, plays a much different style than its intracity rival as it relies on the pace of Mexico international Carlos Vela and finishing of Diego Rossi. The pair have accounted for 17 of LAFC’s 26 goals, with Vela leading the MLS on 11 goals in as many matches.
The Black and Gold are looking to bounce back from a subpar performance offensively after being held to a scoreless draw at home by the Chicago Fire last week. It was only the second time they were blanked in 2019, but they have totaled only one goal in the last 180 minutes.
“Over the first 11 games, we’re a team that creates a lot of chances and scores some really good goals,” coach Bob Bradley said Thursday. “We’re disappointed on days we don’t score goals because we think we’re capable of putting goals on the board every game.”
While the goals grab the attention, Los Angeles FC also has been nearly airtight on defense with Walker Zimmerman anchoring the back line. Bradley’s team has conceded an MLS low-tying eight goals despite playing two more matches than Atlanta United and it has yielded four goals in five road matches.
“Walker’s leadership has gone to a good level and he sees how important it is that as we step up as a team,” Bradley said. “When guys close the ball down that makes it easier for the guys in the back to push higher.”
Vela did not play in last year’s first MLS meeting between the teams as LAFC won 2-0 on goals by Laurent Ciman and Adama Diomande in the first eight minutes.
(Gyasi Vardes photo courtesy Columbus Crew SC official Twitter account)
(Carlos Vela photo courtesy Carlos Vela official Twitter account)