LOS ANGELES (AP)Cristian Arango continued his scoring tear with his seventh goal in four matches, and Los Angeles FC stayed in the MLS playoff race with a 3-0 thrashing of the Western Conference-leading Seattle Sounders on Tuesday night.
Brian Rodriguez and Latif Blessing scored in the first half as LAFC moved into a seventh-place tie and a temporary playoff spot by goal differential over Vancouver, which has a game in hand. LAFC hosts the Whitecaps on Nov. 2 in its final home match of the regular season.
”It’s a great win, and a lot of guys stepped up,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said. ”We have a week after this busy stretch to get ready for a really important game next Tuesday against Vancouver.”
Jamal Blackman recorded his first MLS shutout while making four of his five saves in the second half for LAFC, which is unbeaten in five straight matches. Its late rally in a disappointing season comes as LAFC attempts to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
Los Angeles also got a boost from the return of oft-injured captain Carlos Vela, who played as a second-half substitute in his first match in two months. The crowd chanted Vela’s name as he came on.
”Seeing Carlos return is a happy feeling for us,” Arango said. ”He’s a great leader. The supporters love him, and we do too. Hopefully we can have him around for much more time and get rid of those injuries.”
Arango put LAFC up by three goals when he blasted a twisting shot from well outside the box past Stefan Frei. The Colombian forward has been spectacular since joining the club in August from Millonarios, scoring 13 goals in 15 matches.
”It was a great match where we all pushed and we all gave it our all,” Arango said. ”I decided to take a shot because in the first half I didn’t have an opportunity. Thankfully it went in. As a forward, I must have shots. Otherwise, I’m not doing my job.”
Seattle struggled, stretching its winless skid stretched to four games. The Sounders are still three points ahead of Kansas City and Colorado atop the conference, but Sporting has two games in hand and the Rapids have one.
LAFC took the lead in the 21st minute when Rodriguez ran on to a through pass from Raheem Edwards and put his third goal of the season between Frei’s legs. Rodriguez returned to LAFC in July after an unproductive half-season on loan in Spain’s second division.
Los Angeles then caught the Sounders napping late in first-half injury time. Blessing streaked into the box and roofed Kim Moon-Hwan’s deflected pass on a volley for his second goal of the year.
Both teams were missing key players from past rivalry matchups due to injuries. Seattle played without Raul Ruidiaz (knee injury) and Joao Paulo (yellow card accumulation), while LAFC was without midfielders Eduard Atuesta (right shoulder injury), Jose Cifuentes (yellow card accumulation) and Francisco Ginella (injured).
Vela, who came on as a substitute in the 78th minute, made his first appearance since Aug. 21. The 32-year-old hadn’t even been available off the bench while missing the previous 11 matches with a quadriceps injury that has limited him to just nine full matches all year. The 2019 MLS MVP also missed all but seven matches in the 2020 season, and his LAFC contract expires this winter.
”Ted Lasso” actors Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt and Brett Goldstein attended the match in LAFC gear. Hunt, who plays Coach Beard, is an LAFC supporter and ticket holder.
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