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LAFC cruise to win over Vancouver as Olivera scores twice

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
LAFC cruised to a 3-0 win against Vancouver Whitecaps, led by a brace from Cristian Olivera, as they sour to fifth place in the Western Conference.

LOS ANGELES — Cristian Olivera scored two first-half goals and LAFC remained undefeated at home with a 3-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night at BMO Stadium.

LAFC, who have outscored their opponent 17-6 in home matches, moved into fifth place in the MLS Western Conference with the three points from the victory.

The scoring began early as Denís Bouanga, on the left flank, leapt onto a pass from Eduard Atuesta, before crossing over to Olivera, who then scored with his first touch in the 18th minute. Another ball from Atuesta found Bouanga again on the left for his trademark quick run, playing the ball past Vancouver’s defense before sending it to a well-positioned Olivera in the 36th minute, making it 2-0.

In the second half, Bouanga sent a cross to Mateusz Bogusz in the 57th minute for LAFC’s final goal of the match. 

Despite conceding three goals, Yohei Takaoka saved five others. Meanwhile, Hugo Lloris had four saves and recorded his third shutout of the MLS season.

The shutout ended LAFC’s disappointing 10-match run in league play that left the former champs with a zero-goal differential languishing mid-table.

“Sometimes, things take time,” LAFC coach Steve Cherundolo, always the voice of control and discipline, explained. “When one of your attackers has three assists, and the other two have three goals, that’s really good.

“And that makes it a lot easier for the rest of the group, and it motivates your defenders, it motivates your midfielders, put them in situations where they can score.”

LAFC’s back line, conceding five non-penalty-kick goals in seven home matches, have shown their best performances at BMO stadium.

All three goals were assisted by Bouanga, ceding his usual hyper-charged role of attacker, overshooting and often under-finishing, to his fellow forwards, Bogusz (with 4 shots at goal) and Olivera (with 6 shots at goal).

“When you don’t know how to score, you need to do the passes. I think I’m as happy as I was scoring,” Bouanga said. “Like I said last year, either way, I’m happy.

“I’m here to help the team to be successful. I wish I could have given (Olivera) a third pass so he can have a hat trick to savor it himself.”

Olivera has scored five goals in his last three games across all competitions and has scored six all season.

“The work this team puts in and the sacrifice, moreover, the humility reflects on the field,” Olivera said. “If there’s no teamwork, there’s no functioning on the individual side.”

The Montevideo native played the last two seasons with Uruguayan Primera division’s Boston River while on loan from Almería in La Liga, before joining LAFC last summer. While at River, he scored nine goals in 30 starts.

He had been timid since joining MLS, registering four shots or less per match aside from two outliers last season. That was until the dam burst in LAFC’s midweek Open Cup match in which he attempted six shots.

“He has now learned to get in front of the goal, and not outside the goal,” Cherundolo said. “It’s been a long road for KiKe to become more prolific. It’s been a lot of individual work in the training field with coaches.

“And he has the ability also to learn and get better. That’s what you’re seeing. We’re very happy with his progression and production.”

The father of two girls calls his first child his engine on and off the field.

“It takes a player who wants to become part of a system and wants it, and KiKe has really put in the work, and has put in the work and he’s now reaping the benefits personally,” Cherundolo said. “But, we’re also benefiting as a group.”

LAFC’s next match is at St. Louis CITY SC at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

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