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MLS Review: Vela extends LAFC´s winning run

Los Angeles FC defeated Cincinnati 2-0 on Saturday to remain top of the Western Conference in MLS, as DC United took advantage of a slip up from Columbus Crew.

Mark-Anthony Kaye headed home Carlos Vela’s corner in the 32nd minute at Banc of California Stadium to put LAFC ahead against their fellow expansion franchise.

And Vela sealed all three points in second-half stoppage time, receiving a pass from Eduard Atuesta before advancing into the area and firing a low finish past Spencer Richey.

The result leaves LAFC three points clear of second-placed Seattle Sounders, who had Will Bruin’s brace to thank for a 3-2 win over Toronto, Jozy Altidore netting a double in vain for the visitors to CenturyLink Field.

LA Galaxy are a point further back in third after winning their fourth match in succession as Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s pair of first-half strikes earned a 2-0 victory at home to Philadelphia Union, who had Auston Trusty sent off for committing a second bookable offence with 14 minutes to go.

In the Eastern Conference, DC United came from a goal down to win 3-2 away to Colorado Rapids and go top of the standings.

Columbus Crew dropped to second following a 1-0 loss at Montreal Impact, who are now just two points behind them in third place.

There were five goals inside the first 32 minutes of Minnesota United’s match at home to New York City, who had Ismael Tajouri to thank for rescuing a point in a 3-3 draw and sparing the blushes of Sean Johnson, the goalkeeper having conceded a comical own goal to gift the hosts the advantage.

MLS Cup holders Atlanta United claimed their first league win under Frank de Boer thanks to Ezequiel Barco’s double in a 2-0 victory at New England Revolution.

In other matches, there were 2-1 wins for Real Salt Lake, Dallas and Houston Dynamo against Orlando City, Portland Timbers and San Jose Earthquakes respectively.

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Stieber and Arriola providing chances in waves

Five MLS matches are now under Paul Arriola’s belt, a timeframe in which United have won three consecutive games for the time all season and played some of the best soccer all year.

Fellow newcomer Zoltán Stieber has begun to settle in as well, notching back-to-back starts on either side of international duty with Hungary. As United’s new wide players continue to acclimate themselves, head coach Ben Olsen is not only excited about what he’s already seen, but also what’s to come.

“Good soccer players find it easy to play with other good soccer players, that’s always been the case,” he said. “Zoltán [Stieber] is gifted and the game comes easy to him. Guys like Lucho [Acosta] and Paul [Arriola] find it easy to play with guys of that caliber… but it takes a bit of time.”

While both Stieber and Arriola are most comfortable out wide, the two players’ different styles each offer the Black-and-Red unique variations in the offensive third. For the Hungarian, who likes to connect passes, bring others into attack and combine with Luciano Acosta, it’s all about build up play.

Arriola, on the hand, uses his pace to stretch defenses, keeping opposing back lines honest and not allow defenders any amount of ease, whether they’re on the ball or not. Both players, though, have brought much-needed creativity high up the field; Stieber has created seven chances in his two games (only 147 minutes, to be exact), and Arriola has added 10 through his first five.

For reference, behind Acosta and Lloyd Sam, the team’s first and second in chances created with 48 and 46, respectively, the next highest total is Taylor Kemp, with 20 from 22 matches. Stieber already is a third of the way there from two matches, while Arriola has averaged two a game. The benefit of having multiple chance creators in a side is twofold; not only are there simply more chances for goals, but it forces defenses to focus on more than one or two players, knowing that any number of offensive weapons can inflict damage.

Against Orlando, Arriola showcased his pace to perfection early in the first half. After racing to get on the hand of a Patrick Mullins through ball down the right hand side, the 22-year-old beat his man and returned the ball to Mullins, whose first-time shot was saved by Bendik. The combination play was a perfect example of the type of chance Arriola can create on the outside.

As the season’s end inches closer, Stieber, Arriola, Acosta, Sam and others will continue to build chemistry both on and off the field, and United fans can expect to see more of the high tempo offensive play that the dangerous attackers bring to the table.