LAFC and Houston Dynamo played their first game in MLS is Back Tournament Monday night in Group F and shared six goals in a thrilling game to ensure the spoils were shared. Memo Rodriguez put the Dynamo ahead on 9 minutes, before Bradley Wright-Phillips restored parity. Rodriguez got his second of the game on the half-hour mark, and Alberth Elis made it 3-1 just before half time. However, Diego Rossi and Brian Rodriguez made sure that both sides took away a point.
Story of the match
Houston raced into a 9th minute lead against the defending Supporter's Shield holders. Memo Rodriguez beat Latif Blessing, then smashed home the ball at the near post from the edge of the area. Their lead lasted less than ten minutes, however. Bradley Wright Phillips got on the end of a ball across the six-yard box from Diego Rossi to draw LAFC level.
On half an hour, Rodriguez got his brace. He followed up after Zarek Valentin crossed and the ball was hit straight back into the forward's path. He made no mistake, sliding the ball over the line to restore the Dynamo's lead. Before half time, it was 3-1. Alberth Elis headed home a Darwin Quintero free kick in the fifth minute of stoppage time, with the goal awarded after VAR reversed an incorrect offside decision.
Knowing that they had squandered chances in the first half to be level or even ahead, LAFC halved the arrears in the 63rd minute via Diego Rossi. The Uruguayan collected a through ball wide right, and then rifled high and past Marko Maric into the far-side netting.
In the 69th minute, the game was all tied up again via Brian Rodriguez, his first for the club since joining from Peñarol last summer. Rodriguez was slipped in by Latif Blessing, and then calmly slotted underneath Maric. That proved to be the final goal in this thrilling match that on another night could have seen the total of goals doubled for both sides.
Takeaways from the match
There could have been a lot more goals in this game, and LAFC coach Bob Bradley will be wondering how they didn't win. LAFC had 71.5% possession and created by far the most chances in the game. They had 23 shots on goal, compared to Houston's 9 - but only 6 of these were on target, compared to the Dynamo's 5. Possession does not win you games, and that is something that Bradley will have to tweak in their upcoming games. It will be all the more difficult without Carlos Vela, who is missing from the tournament, as well as Adama Diomande - who left the game in a protective boot after sustaining a foot injury.
Houston made their chances count and did well against Bradley's side, but having thrown away the lead on two occasions, Head Coach Tab Ramos will be keen to learn from their defensive mistakes in their next Group F game. He will be encouraged by the homegrown star Memo Rodriguez's performance and knows that he must be at the top of his game for the rest of the tournament if they are to advance to the last 16.
Stand out players
Who else but Memo Rodriguez? The youngster scored a brace and was very impressive in his performance before being substituted in the 64th minute. His first goal, in particular, showed great skill and then an explosive shot to give the Dynamo the lead, and his second showed striker's instinct by being alive for the second ball to slide home.
For LAFC, Diego Rossi was impressive on his return to MLS and scored his side's second goal as well as assisting for Wright-Phillips in the first half. Bob Bradley will be hoping that the play-maker will be a direct replacement for the missing Carlos Vela, as the killer pass and finish was often what was missing from his men.
Reaction from both sides
After the game, LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley was pleased with the way his players reacted after going into the half time break 1-3 down.
“We were able to push the game in the second half,” Bradley said. That’s a credit to the work the guys have put in. I really liked in the second half we were able to vary it and make little passes off the edge of the defense and get Bryan [Rodriguez] and Diego [Rossi] into good positions.”
Houston's goal scorer Memo Rodriguez was positive about how his side played against Bradley's men.
“Our team’s intensity was really well matched with LAFC,” Rodriguez said. “Unfortunately, we gave up two goals in the second half, but we played 50-50 with them and I think it shows that we can play with anybody in this league.“
Up next for both
LAFC take on their cross-city rivals LA Galaxy on Sunday, looking for their first win of the tournament. They know they must be much more solid at the back if they are to take all three points. Houston, meanwhile, next line up against Portland Timbers, also on Sunday. The way they started the game in the first half against LAFC was blistering, but they ran out of steam in the end and were holding on for dear life.
LAFC Line Up: Vermeer; Blackmon (El-Monir 60'), Jakovic, Segura, Palacios (Ginella 60'); Blessing, Atuesta, Kaye (Cifuentes 90'); Rodriguez, Rossi, Wright-Phillips (Diomande 60' (Musovski 77')).
Substitutes not used: Sisniega, Harvey, Silva, Guido, Duke, Najar.
Houston Dynamo Line Up: Maric; Lundqvist (Junqua 81'), Figueroa, Struna, Valentin; Rodriguez (Lemoine 64'), Vera, Garcia; Quintero (Ceren 64'), Elis (Cabrera 87'), Mantonas.
Substitutes not used: Nelson, Fuenmayor, Martinez, McNamara, Hansen, Bizama, Pena, Cropper.