LAFC defeated by Colorado as Rapids win first home match of 2024

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
After a match LAFC ought to have won, ends with Colorado Rapids winning 3-2, head coach Steve Cherundolo says it all - ""Obviously no disrespect to our opponent but it feels like a night where we beat ourselves."

Coming off a convincing 5-0 win against Nashville SC last Saturday, LAFC struggled at mile-high Dick’s Sporting Goods Park to the Colorado Rapids on Saturday, March 30, eventually falling 3-2 despite goals from Eduard Atuesta and Venezuelan teenager David Martinez who scored his first career MLS goal.

Yet, coming on the heels of a week of announcements and signings, the storyline couldn’t be much more disappointing. “We are mad because we had a good performance in 80 minutes,” Atuesta reflected. “The last 10 minutes were too bad, and we lost the three points, so we are mad for that. We expect to be better in the next games.” The Black and Gold are now just 1 win in their last 5 matches, and fall to 8th place in the Western Conference barring any more changes this weekend.

Atuesta scored for the second straight match to give LAFC a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute. However, Moïse Bombito scored with header from the center of the box in the 38th minute, resulting in a stalemate as the two teams head to the locker rooms for halftime. But the goals were just beginning. In the second half, David Martínez, the 18-year-old  from Venezuela touted as the nation’s up-and-coming star, came on as a sub and scored his first MLS career goal in the 76th minute.

Once again, LAFC had the lead. But, Djordje Mihailovic spoiled LAFC’s celebrations, scoring twice in the remaining minutes. First, with a free kick in the 83rd minute. Next, as a result of a second yellow to Martínez two minutes later, LAFC were forced to play a man down. Mihailovic gave the Rapids the final and go-ahead goal in the 89th minute, forcing LAFC to swallow their pride.

It’s worth noting that the referees officiating the match (and all matches from here until the end of the 2030 season) are not replacement refs who were being utilized for the last month, after the official signing of the longest CBA for match officials in MLS history. The Rapids officially won their first home match this season (arguably fair and square) and took their rightful place in 4th place in the Western Conference.

Last year, LAFC’s record was dominant when scoring first, and they were continuing that this 22W-1L-4D in all competitions when scoring the first goal. That trend was broken today with the loss. It should give the 2022 MLS Cup champions pause as they reflect on a currently unremarkable season, one still overshadowed with the absence of their former captain, the first-ever LAFC player, Carlos Vela, a man whose absence can only be erased by the eventual and still unconfirmed signing of French superstar Olivier Giroud. Yet, while that sounds like a beautiful story, the disappearance of Vela and the legacy he had helped forge and foster at LAFC, is not one that can be replicated or replaced by any short-term goal-scoring relief, FIFA World Cup winner or not.

“Obviously no disrespect to our opponent but it feels like a night where we beat ourselves,” LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo declared afterwards. It’s time to reflect.

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