Los Angeles FC-New York City FC Preview
Los Angeles FC is quickly proving to be more than a one-year wonder, though it's still yet to be tested on the road.
The Black and Gold will be carrying plenty of early season momentum as they head east for Sunday's match against a New York City FC club still trying to find its footing in the post-David Villa era.
LAFC set the bar awfully high by generating an expansion-record 57 points and finishing third in the Western Conference in its 2018 debut, and its follow-up is off to a soaring start with impressive home wins over last year's West final participants, Sporting Kansas City and Portland.
An offense that produced 68 goals last season was in top form in last Sunday's 4-1 victory over the Timbers, as the Black and Gold struck three times in the final 46 minutes to break open what had been an even contest.
Carlos Vela led the barrage with a goal and two assists and Adama Diomande had one of each a week after netting the deciding goal in the closing seconds of LAFC's 2-1 win over Kansas City.
"I think we're just all bought in," said forward Christian Ramirez, who scored the tiebreaking goal seconds into first-half stoppage time against the Timbers. "We're just growing from what we had last year and we're continuing to believe in the style of soccer that (coach) Bob (Bradley) wants us to play and that we're capable of playing."
While LAFC is off to a dream start, New York City has kicked off Domenec Torrent's first full season in charge with a pair of highly frustrating draws. It blew a 2-0 halftime lead in the March 2 opener at Orlando City, then couldn't solve D.C. United keeper Bill Hamid last Sunday in a scoreless match in which it finished with a 21-7 shot advantage and a 63 percent possession mark.
"Our first 15 minutes was too soft. We weren't in the game," said midfielder Alexander Ring, who had two good chances denied on diving saves by Hamid. "But I think after that, there's no question of who the better team was for 75 minutes of that game. We just have to focus on creating more opportunities and then scoring."
Finding a reliable finisher has been an issue in NYCFC's first two matches since the departure of Villa, whose 80 goals over the previous four seasons were the second-most in MLS. That hasn't been a problem for LAFC, which counts Vela, Diomande and Ramirez among four returnees with 10 or more goals last season.
Scoring on NYCFC at Yankee Stadium can be a challenge, though, as it conceded only 11 goals total while posting a 13-1-4 home record during the 2018 regular season.
The clubs' lone meeting to date ended in a 2-all draw in Los Angeles last May, with NYCFC's Ismael Tajouri-Shradi coming off the bench to net the equalizer in the 75th minute.
Updated March 14, 2019