Los Angeles, Calif. — It may not have been the prettiest victory, but Los Angeles got a much needed win last night. In addition to three points, LAFC clinch a spot in the playoffs with their 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo.
While the performance has yet to reach the same levels it had last season, the last few matches have shown promise that this team can overcome and win while facing adversity.
LAFC Clinch Playoff Spot With 2-1 Win Over Houston
Houston got a flying start to the match, putting the pressure on Los Angeles early and often. The first five minutes of the match, the stage looked set for another disappointing upset. However, it only took a few close calls to wake up the Black and Gold. After the brief Dynamo dominance, LAFC took the lead with precision passing and pure finishing. A gorgeous El-Munir flick in the ninth minute set-up Diego Rossi for a tap-in goal, giving the Uruguayan 13 goals on the season.
The 22nd minute saw Eddie Segura prove that the best offense is a good defense. The defender couldn’t get his head on the original corner kick, but after briefly pin-balling around the ball found Segura’s right foot. The Colombian sent a rocket through the crowd that snuck by the far post and into the net for the team’s second goal.
Houston was given a chance to cut the deficit in half courtesy of a penalty in the 32nd minute, but were denied by the stone wall that was Kenneth Vermeer. It wouldn’t be the only save of the night for the veteran, who had his best performance since joining Los Angeles.
Houston was able to get on the scoresheet immediately at the start of the second half. Flashing some fancy passing of their own, a chipped through ball led to a flick, that led to a tap-in for Dynamo’s Ari Lassiter. While the half started out strong, much like the first, it fizzled out and LAFC held on to a 2-1 that not only gave them three points, but clinched themselves a playoff spot.
The veteran’s inclusion over Sisniega was a bit of a surprise, as it was later discovered Sisniega was held out with a minor injury. However, Vermeer made the absolute most of his opportunity to show coaches and fans that he still is capable of protecting goal. The highlight of his night was undoubtedly the penalty save, but it was just one of several big moments.
A save in the 12th minute kept LAFC in the lead just when Houston was gathering momentum to push for an equalizer. While it’s doubtful this performance catapults him back into the starting XI, it does provide massive comfort knowing he is ready to perform when called upon.
— LAFC (@LAFC) October 29, 2020
Much like his Colombian compatriot Eduard Atuesta, Segura has taken to Los Angeles extremely well. In just his second season with the team, he has established himself as the anchor at the back. While they may have had their struggles as a group, Segura has been a constant bright spot with a high work rate and incredible awareness. He is often the one in the way of many attempts on goal, and has shown this season that he can put them in the back of the net as well.
While only 22-years-old, having featured last year gives him that much needed playoff experience heading into the postseason. Look for him to continue to blossom, establishing himself as a fan favorite along the way.
The Last Word
LAFC have gone 4-1-1 in their last six matches, with only two remaining before the postseason begins. Carlos Vela has returned from injury, and there will be no more international breaks to interrupt them. While they are missing a couple pieces to injury, for the most part, this team is far healthier now that it has been most of the season.
They are also finding ways to win more than they were a majority of the season. This team is hitting all the right notes, at the most opportune time, as the playoffs approach. While they may lack the performances that stand-out as MLS Cup caliber, their desire and hunger remains. Now that a spot is clinched, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them focus on continuing to get healthy so that all their firepower is ready for a possible title run.
"Tonight is a game we look at as a lesson."
— LAFC (@LAFC) October 29, 2020