LAFC back to winning ways after “three-week, soul-searching adventure”
For all the hype surrounding LAFC after their historic Secondary Transfer Window, life hasn’t been easy the past several weeks.
Amidst all the talk of winning the Supporters’ Shield and setting the MLS single-season points record, they lost three consecutive matches, including a 4-1 thumping on the road against Austin FC in one of the season’s most stunning results.
The Black & Gold put that behind them on Sunday night, putting in a professional performance to dispatch Real Salt Lake 2-0 at home.
“We’re happy to get three points again and that winning feeling back at LAFC,” said head coach Steve Cherundolo. “We went on a little three-week, soul-searching adventure and we came out, I hope, long term better for it. I truly believe that.”
Goals from Ryan Hollingshead and Cristian Arango secured the three points for LAFC, who still hold a nine-point stranglehold on the top of the Western Conference.
“Today we just came out tranquilo,” said Hollingshead. “We came out with our calmness and our ability to maintain the style of play that we wanted to have. We stuck with what we wanted to do.”
Part of what LAFC have wanted to do is to continue adding in high-level attacking talent. Denis Bouanga is the latest in a string of high-profile moves the Black & Gold have made, and the 27-year-old Gabon international got his first MLS start Sunday, going 70 minutes in front of a raucous Banc of California Stadium crowd.
“He fit in very well tonight,” said Cherundolo. “Very, very positive. But if you ask Denis the same question, I think he’d say that he can do more. But we’ll use tonight as a foundation moving forward and we’ll add to his toolbox that’s already very large, and we’ll keep going. I think the more he plays the better he’ll get.”
“They were very confident with my qualities,” agreed Bouanga, who joined on a Designated Player deal after Saint-Étienne got relegated from Ligue 1. “They knew I could be at the top after many games. I know I only played 70 minutes, but I was very confident in my skills.”
LAFC’s riches of talent on paper are unprecedented in MLS, and the club will hope they’re acclimating at the right time. Bouanga got his first start. Giorgio Chiellini played the full 90 minutes for the first time since arriving in the summer window. Gareth Bale had another lively showing off the bench, and newly-signed winger Cristian Tello will give the club yet another option down the stretch once he arrives.
With a bevy of superstars and a much-needed three points, the Black & Gold will hope their three-match losing streak was nothing more than, as general manager John Thorrington termed it, a “speed bump”. But Cherundolo said it’s a speed bump that can teach the club a valuable lesson.
“Psychologically, when you get knocked down, it’s very important to get back up and to keep going down the same path. That’s what we’ve done,” Cherundolo said. “And to understand why you fell down and to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I think that’s what we’ve achieved in the last couple weeks. Does that mean we’ll never lose another game? No. But it solidifies our way of playing and the belief in the locker room that when we play our way, we’re a very difficult team to beat.”
HIGHLIGHTS: Los Angeles Football Club vs. Real Salt Lake | September 04, 2022