A pair of late scores from the bench produced Los Angeles Football Club’s latest victory Sunday evening at Banc of California Stadium.
The 2-0 win over Minnesota United FC yielded three points against the visitors for the first time since LAFC’s inaugural season of 2018, ending a five match winless streak against them while maintaining the Black & Gold’s status as Major League Soccer’s top club through nine weeks.
Defender Ryan Hollingshead’s third goal of the season in the 82nd minute delivered LAFC (7-1-1, 22 points) a hard-fought lead.
Midfielder Jose Cifuentes put the game away in the 90th minute, adding to the club’s early season trend of producing key goals off the bench while denying opponents opportunities, especially in the second half.
“The effort when guys come on has been nothing but fantastic,” said LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo.” I’ve been very happy with the mentality of the players to accept those roles.”
For Cherundolo, whose substitutions have netted eight of his club’s 21 goals, “contributions from the bench have been the story this year so we were very happy with our bench play and our rotation and making sure we are putting ourselves in position to win games in the second half.”
Minnesota (4-3-2, 14 points) had scored eight of its 11 goals prior to Sunday night in the second half, yet LAFC limited one of the six teams in the league with a winning record against them to one shot on target over 90 minutes — evening the all-time series to 2-2-3.
“You’ve seen the rotations throughout the season,” said Colombian center back Jesus Murillo, who started in the middle of LAFC’s backline next to Mamadou Fall. “Everyone is pushing the same way. Everyone wants to get results.”
Coming into the contest LAFC captain Carlos Vela entered his 95th MLS match one goal or assist shy of tying Italian Sebastian Giovinco’s MLS record for the fastest player to 100 combined goals and assists.
Vela and defender Diego Palacios setup Kellyn Acosta after the 80th minute, forcing a save from MNUFC goalkeeper Dwayne St. Clair that bounded out of bounds for a corner kick leading to the opening goal.
Hollingshead, who replaced Franco Escobar with a quarter hour remaining in the match, moved unmarked inside the box on the subsequent corner and the ball fell to his right foot for his third goal of the year.
“Some goals you work so hard for and some bounce right there,” Hollingshead said. “It was one of those that set up perfectly for me. It was one of those the second I saw it I knew I would do something with it.
“This is exactly how we wanted to start the season. We have real lofty goals for the team we have. We’re so deep. We have guys coming in off the bench who are guaranteed starters on other teams in the league. That fire power is huge.”
Under Cherundolo, LAFC has shown that while it’s great having their best player contribute, failing to do so isn’t necessarily detrimental to securing results.
Taken off after 88 minutes spent hovering around the box looking for a milestone contribution, Minnesota managed to keep Vela off the scoresheet as the Mexican forward missed the target on each of his three shots.
Palacios, whom Cherundolo has repeatedly called one of the best defenders in MLS, worked an intricate sequence with Vela’s substitute Francisco Ginella that allowed Cifuentes an opportunity to seal the win.
Palacios’s third assist ties him with Vela for the team lead. All have come in the club’s last two home matches, equaling the Ecuadorian international’s total from his previous 45 MLS appearances.
LAFC remains unbeaten at home (4-0-1) and has not lost on its home field in nine games dating back to last season.
The result — LAFC’s third consecutive league match with a game-winning goal after the 70-minute mark — was goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau’s third shutout of the year.
“I think we are seeing our team is able to step up a notch physically, which is extremely important to the way we play,” Cherundolo said. “I think that is maybe a little secret to our success to be able to put enough fresh legs with quality to change the dynamics of the game.”