LAFC takes Game 1 in playoff series vs. Vancouver – Orange County Register

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LOS ANGELES – A competitive first half gave way to a lopsided second as the Los Angeles Football Club overwhelmed the Vancouver Whitecaps to snatch an advantage in the MLS Cup playoffs Best-of-3 opening round.

Two goals apiece by Denis Bouanga and Ryan Hollingshead, as well as a late capper by defender Jesus Murillo, pushed LAFC past Vancouver 5-2.

The series moves to Canada next Sunday, Nov. 5, a year to the day that the Black & Gold won its first MLS Cup.

Bouanga became the first LAFC player with more than one multi-goal playoff game, and his brace put him on 35 goals for the season, six back of Carlos Vela’s record performance in 2019. It marked the 10th match this year that Bouanga, an MLS MVP finalist, produced more than one goal for the Black & Gold.

Prior to the second half outburst, an unattractive opening 15 minutes produced zero shots from either side until the teams traded blows and alternated four goals over a 26 minute stretch that made it 2-2 at the half.

Following a well-executed set play in the Vancouver box that earned LAFC a corner kick, Hollingshead nearly made good on the Carlos Vela delivery when he pounded down a header at the far post in the 16th minute.

A diving save by Whitecaps goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka denied the offensive-minded fullback, but Hollingshead collected the rebound and slotted in a tight-angle shot with his left foot for the lead.

Like they did last weekend in Canada on Decision Day, Vancouver leveled the match due in large part to a defensive lapse from the defending champions.

Passing the ball back and forth in their own end, LAFC seemed content to slow down play but then centerback Jesus Murillo opted to push the ball forward.

Needlessly giving it away on an errant pass gave Vancouver an instant counterattack that freed the Whitecaps top scorer, forward Brian White, whose shot was redirected off a sliding Giorgio Chiellini past Maxime Crepeau.

A couple minutes later the first of Vancouver’s two equalizers was wiped away thanks to Bouanga, LAFC’s third Golden Boot winner in five years.

A ball over the top by Chiellini led to a flick from the head of defender Diego Palacios, who put the ball at Bouanga’s feet. The Frenchman stormed into the box, made a touch to his right, and unleashed a shot that Takaoka had no hope of stopping.

Again Vancouver got back into the game in part due to a self-inflicted wound by Murillo.

The strong Colombian, who overcame a troubling ankle sprain during the season to regain a starting spot late in the year, committed a foul in a spot that gave Whitecaps playmaker Ryan Gauld a chance.

Off the free kick the Scottish Designated Player floated the ball toward the middle of LAFC’s box, where Mateusz Bogusz got outjumped by Vancouver’s Sam Adekugbe for the game-tying header.

Hollingshead and Bouanga added to their tallies after the break.

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