LAFC remain in second place in the Western Conference after falling 2-1 to Charlotte FC in their second match of the week at Bank of America Stadium while Mario González, LAFC’s new number nine, struck his first goal for the Black and Gold in his second league appearance.
“It’s the reason we brought Mario in. To give us a reference and some presence at the nine position and obviously to finish plays and to score goals,” Steve Cherundolo stated in post-game comments. The 27-year-old Spanish international joined the reigning MLS Cup Champions this summer after spending the last two years with SC Braga in Portugal and on loan in the Belgian Pro League where he scored 13 goals last season.
He debuted for LAFC during their Leagues Cup quarter-final match against Monterrey earlier this month and is expected to fill the gap that was left upon Cristian Arango’s departure at the end of last season. But González is off to a slower than ideal start due in part to the timing of the European pre-season during the transfer window in which he arrived to Los Angeles.
“At Braga, I had two months of summer, then two or three weeks of pre-season, but now I come here and everyone’s in the middle of the season,” he explained. “Everyone, in terms of the physical, is really good. And I’m still preparing myself for the season. That has been the most difficult thing.”
The Crown struck first. In the 29th minute, Karol Swiderski crossed the ball into the penalty area and Ashley Westwood one-timed it past John McCarthy to give the home side the lead. LAFC were unable to find a response in the first half and began the second down a goal but eventually equalized in the 67th minute as Denís Bouanga played the ball to González in the penalty area, causing Kristijan Kahlina to come off his line and allowing the striker to send the ball into an open net. But, the tie was short-lived.
Swiderski shot a howler towards McCarthy in the 77th minute and, while he made a stop, the rebound chance inside the box was all Scott Arfield needed to slot it home for the final goal of the night. The bottom-dwelling Eastern Conference hosts led in both possession and shots at goal, while LAFC’s limp performance ended a 4-match unbeaten streak and pointed towards issues of unconvincing team dynamics.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t reach victory, so I’m not really happy today,” González openly admitted when asked about his own performance. “The first goal is good to get confidence, but first I wanted to win this game.”
With just nine matches remaining before the playoffs, their match next Sunday against a buoyed Inter Miami, who are currently on a nine-match unbeaten streak, could be the biggest indicator of success or failure for a roller-coaster season of experimentation for LAFC.
“I think there’s a lot of room for improvement not just for [González], but for our attack in general and how each player is learning and gelling with the other,” Cherundolo stated. The time to build an up and down season into one of cohesion and teamwork is slowly running out.