MLS Focus: LAFC loses its way in Atlanta

Photo courtesy of Atlanta United

Through the first hour of last week's game at the LA Galaxy, everything had been going swimmingly for expansion LAFC, which opened with a pair of wins (1-0 at Seattle and 5-1 at Real Salt Lake) and was leading the Galaxy, 3-0.

Since then? LAFC gave up four goals to the Galaxy and lost, 4-3, on Zlatan Ibrahimovic's goal in stoppage time. On Saturday, LAFC fell to Atlanta United, 5-0.

Late blowout. The game was a lot closer than the final margin indicated as the Five Stripes' Miguel Almiron converted two late penalty kicks and Jamaican Romario Williams scored his first MLS goal in four years as a pro in the seventh minute of stoppage time after LAFC had been reduced to 10 players on a red card to rookie Joao Moutinho that led to Almiron's second PK.

There were seven minutes of stoppage time in part because referee Ted Unkel reviewed a no-call on Walker Zimmerman and used VAR to award the first penalty kick Almiron converted in the 88th minute.

Rare red reversal. It was the second VAR decision of the game that went against LAFC. In the first minute, Unkel reversed his decision to red card Atlanta United midfielder Chris McCann and give the Irishman only a yellow card for a foul after sliding in on Benny Feilhaber. It was the first time in MLS history a red card was changed to yellow on review.

“It’s a terrible way to start the game," said LAFC coach Bob Bradley. "Psychologically for all the players, the whole game is already out of whack. Starting a game in that way. The referees could not do a worse job of getting a game going and making sure everybody on the field feels like a real game is going to take place. It’s a bad way to start a game."

From his vantage point, Bradley said McCann had one foot going in with his studs exposed.

“Seems to me," he said, "the way it has been explained over and over is that if you go in and you show your studs then, whether not you get the player or not, that it is a red card. That is how it has always been explained and, like I said, I’m pretty sure that one foot went in that way.”

Not good enough in attack. After Julian Gressel's opening goal in the 17th minute, LAFC went on the attack in search of an equalizer and finished with a huge edge in possession -- 59 percent to 41 percent -- and a 16-11 edge in shots, but it only managed to put one shot on target.

"I thought our initial response was good," Bradley. "I thought we did a good job of pressing and winning the ball back. I don’t think on the day we were good enough in the attacking part of the field."

Unfortunately, LAFC collapsed after Gressel set up Josef Martinez for the second goal in the 67th minute.

"I thought we lost our way," said Bradley. "That includes losing balls you shouldn’t lose, and that included poor reactions by guys around the ball when you lose it. So, you don’t pin that on the defense, per se. The football after it was 2-0 was just no-good and that’s just not what we are going to be about.”

7 comments about "MLS Focus: LAFC loses its way in Atlanta".
  1. Kent James, April 8, 2018 at 11:18 a.m.

    Not sure who controls the highlights (I'm guessing it ain't SA), but how can you have 3 controversial calls (at least 2 involving VAR), and not show them?  Players taking a PK are okay, but since most of those are routine, forced to choose, I'd rather see the call that lead to the PK than the PK itself (and of course, there is no reason not so show both).  

  2. R2 Dad, April 8, 2018 at 2:08 p.m.

    This is where VAR can go off the rails. Rescinding a red card is opening up a huge can of worms as it undermines referee authority on the pitch. Now we'll have players and coaches calling for review at every call they don't like. Ted Unkel had an opinion, he conferred with his ARs, gave the card, and the VAR gets to overturn it? The process should not allow for this option, imho.

  3. Ric Fonseca replied, April 8, 2018 at 5:31 p.m.

    Very interesting comment, why? Because I now have in good authority that last week's Ibra's second goal, he was at least 1/2 yard offside at the time the ball was passed forward, and the VAR folks, as I was told, informed the ref of the Offside positioning, the replays showed it, yet the ref ignored or overruled the VAR folks.  So VAR has it's good sides and bad sides, and even in today's match Orlando/Timbers the VAR was used with similar results.  So, if VAR is being used extensively, OMG, we're gonna turn into a football or basketball type of sporting events!  Jeez, why don't they also use it for basbeball, and btw, do they use it in hockey?

  4. John Soares, April 9, 2018 at 6 a.m.

    Eric, I think, you are including a touch of humor. But to the point. If VAR is going to be used with such inconsistencies then please, let's go back to good all human refs....mistakes and all.

  5. John Soares, April 9, 2018 at 6:03 a.m.

    Sorry, Ric didn't mean to change your name. Spell check did  it for me.

  6. Goal Goal, April 9, 2018 at 3:18 p.m.

    If the ref can over rul the VAR what is the use of having it?  It is a human game let the humans run it.  Have you watched a basketball or baseball game lately.  Its painful the time that is taken on this.

  7. Ric Fonseca replied, April 9, 2018 at 11 p.m.

    Indeed!  The time it takes to review the calls is painfull, take for example the men's NCAA basketball Championship games, just how much time was taken to review a call, for sure took away some of the drama - though for the players it was a chance to catch their breadth, still there's too much time taken from the flow of play!  IMHO, since they're going to continue with the VAR, then I say, let the refs get used to it, and begin educating us, the viewing audience will also begin to get used to it as well.  As for "rescinding" the red card, it was a clear studs up fouls and the player did not merit the yellow, as he shoulda've gone home!!!
    And as for the LAFC "loosing its way in the South," Bradley put it bluntly and correct!

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