frank dell’apa | soccer notes

MLS season could have a Hollywood ending for LAFC

Carlos Vela leads LAFC with 27 goals.
Carlos Vela leads LAFC with 27 goals.ringo h.w. chiu/AP/FR170512 AP via AP

Los Angeles FC has been on a record pace, dominating opponents in its second MLS season. But LAFC has struggled against the LA Galaxy, and had to rally from a two-goal deficit for a 3-3 draw in “El Trafico” derby Sunday night.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice and Carlos Pavón converted in his MLS debut as the Galaxy pulled out to a 3-1 lead in the 16th minute. But Latif Blessing countered with two first-half goals, and Carlos Vela equalized in the 53d minute, before departing with a hamstring injury in the 61st minute.

LAFC (19-3-5, 62 points) has totaled 74 goals and clinched a playoff place with more than two months remaining in the season. The team has seven games to go for records for most points in a season (71, set by the New York Red Bulls last year) and goals (85, set by the 1998 Galaxy).


LAFC, whose lead investor is Hollywood mogul Peter Guber, a Boston native who grew up in Newton, has done nearly everything right since actor-comedian Will Ferrell got behind the controls of a front-loader at the Banc of California Stadium ground-breaking.

But the success of LAFC also raises questions about the stadium’s 22,000 capacity, which might be unable to accommodate the team in the future. LAFC has not spent extravagantly, making Vela its only eight-figure investment ($6.3 million salary, $5.5 million transfer fee) before adding Brian Rodriguez ($11.5 million) this month. Coach Bob Bradley has built a skillful, speedy squad that can be expected to challenge CONCACAF’s best teams with a couple of major acquisitions next year.

The rivalry between the Black & Gold and the Galaxy has helped push both teams forward. The Galaxy signaled their ambition by bringing in coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto, plus Jonathan dos Santos, Ibrahimovic, and Pavón, and appears to be among the few teams capable of upsetting LAFC in the postseason.


Should LAFC continue to win, it will have to contend with possible renegotiations with players such as midfielders Blessing and Mark-Anthony Kaye, who are starting ahead of former Revolution captain Lee Nguyen and André Horta (loaned to SC Braga), plus defender Eddie Segura.

Left and deft

After drilling the deciding goal in the Revolution’s 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire, Gustavo Bou said he could recall having scored few times left-footed. In fact, Bou is listed with 78 career goals, five left-footed, on transfermarkt.com.

Videos of Bou’s scores while playing in Mexico show four left-foot conversions, all from close range, most on the edge of the goal area. But Bou’s finish against the Fire was impressive because it was taken from outside the penalty area, where he almost always fires away right-footed. This was a solid strike, causing the shot to wobble knuckleball style.

Bou, 29, has displayed plenty of touches and tricks. But defenders have not had to be conscious of him as a two-foot finisher from long range.

Asked if Bou had shown a left-foot threat in training, Revolution defender Andrew Farrell replied: “Not like that. I’ve never seen him knuckle it like that. From the first day he got here, he can strike a ball. He took it and it looked like it was going straight to the keeper but it knuckles a little bit off to the left.”

The Revolution (10-9-8, 38 points) are in sixth place going into Saturday’s game against seventh-place Toronto FC (10-10-7, 37 points), and have a 4-point cushion and a game in hand in the playoff race.


Fast starts

When Liverpool and Sevilla FC met in a friendly at Fenway Park last month, Liverpool supporters predominated in the crowd of 35,654. But Sevilla upset things, playing a physical style and upping the intensity in taking a 2-1 victory over the Reds.

Now, both clubs are leading their leagues. Liverpool (3-0-0, 9 points) is the Premier’s only unbeaten and untied team. Sevilla (2-0-0, 6 points) is tied with Atletico Madrid, ahead of Barcelona and Real Madrid, in La Liga.

Sevilla won the Spanish title once, in 1945-46, and usually sets realistic goals: developing players for the transfer market and qualifying for European tournaments. This year, though, Sevilla has spent 151 million euros ($167 million) on transfers and made only one major sale — forward Wissam Ben Yedder to AS Monaco for 40 million euros ($44 million).

Meanwhile, Joris Gnagnon, who was red-carded after a blatant kick in taking down Yasser Larouci in the second half of the Fenway friendly, has been loaned to Rennes in France. Larouci is performing for Liverpool’s U-23 team.

Liverpool players complained about the maliciousness of Gnagnon’s foul, but they should be reminded of former Reds midfielder Adam Phillips’s studs-up crusher on AS Roma’s Salih Ucan at Fenway in 2014. Referee Alan Kelly cautioned Phillips, then 16, and making his Liverpool debut, but could have red-carded him, though former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers tried to justify the challenge.


“It was a challenge you don’t see here, or in Europe,” Rodgers said. “But in the Premier League, that’s a good tackle.”

Young guns

Rocco Commisso could be in for an eventful first season as owner of ACF Fiorentina. Commisso, an all-Ivy League second-team player at Columbia in 1968 and ’69, has attempted to revitalize La Viola after taking over the Serie A club.

Fiorentina appears to have plenty of weapons, though it was outscored, 4-3, by Napoli in its league opener Saturday. The Fiorentina youngsters did not seem fazed by Napoli’s veterans, keeping high-priced central defenders Kalidou Koulibaly and Konstantinos Manolas off-balance.

The average age of La Viola’s roster is 25, and coach Vincenzo Montella went with a starting lineup averaging 23 years. Among the three forwards, 21-year-old Federico Chiesa was the oldest.

Commisso, CEO of Mediacom Communications Corp. and owner of the New York Cosmos, has spent judiciously on transfers, adding 22-year-old defender Pol Lirola ($13 million) and Chilean Erick Pulgar ($11 million). He also has been willing to gamble on older players such as Kevin-Prince Boateng, 32, and Franck Ribéry, 36, who played key roles as substitutes against Napoli.

Boateng converted the third goal with a low shot from distance in the 65th minute, four minutes after entering the match. But Napoli capitalized on a counter, Lorenzo Insigne heading in the deciding goal two minutes later. Ribery entered as a late replacement for Riccardo Sottil, and appeared to have been pulled down in the penalty area by Elseid Hysaj, the non-call costing Fiorentina a chance to equalize.


The technical, all-out attacking performance of both Fiorentina and Napoli signaled a promising start in Serie A.

Napoli, hoping to challenge eight-time defending champion Juventus, could improve with the addition of Mexican winger Hirving “Chuckie” Lozano, plus the return of 22-year-old winger Adam Ounas, who won the African Nations Cup with Algeria. Lozano was acquired on a 38 million euro ($42 million) transfer from PSV Eindhoven.

Should Mexican stars continue to attract the interest of Serie A and other European leagues, MLS will have to up the ante, as well.