Carson, CA – In front of more than 2,000 supporters, Ariel Lassiter scored two goals in a complete victory for LA Galaxy II in the Western Conference Semi-Finals on Saturday night at StubHub Center Track & Field Stadium.
“I thought it was an excellent performance all the way through. I thought our guys competed extremely hard. We knew that we had to outcompete them to position ourselves to win, and that’s what we did. We fought hard,” said LA Galaxy II Head Coach Curt Onalfo after the game. “We were the better team. Having said that they (the Blues) fought till the end, and still, I never felt comfortable until that final whistle blew.”
It was a game that saw LA Galaxy II dominate from the whistle. And while possession and effort were clearly on the side of “Los Dos” there was always the sense that Orange County could find a way back into the game.
For his part, Ari Lassiter, who was suspended for the previous playoff game against Sacramento Republic FC, found the right time to be in the right place as he was able to link up with Raul Mendiola, one of the standout performers in this game, for both of his goals. Lassiter tallied once in the 14th minute and then again in the 57th. Both times exploiting the high defensive line that the Blues were attempting to hold. “As a forward you want to get goals and to end up getting two is a plus for me. But I’m a striker that always wants more, and I left goals out on the table,” confessed Lassiter after the game.
“We worked all week on how to exploit their high line – they play a very high line – and with a little bit of luck we should’ve scored 5 goals tonight.” LA Galaxy II Head Coach Curt Onalfo
Jack McBean also put in a hard working performance. The striker found himself in multiple defensive positions and did a lot of grinding and hold up play that was required for the LA Galaxy II as they did their best to hold onto a one goal, and then, two goal lead.
The LA Galaxy II defense also did their part. As Franco, Steres, Diallo and Sorto stood strong in front of LA Galaxy II goalkeeper Clement Diop. And for large portions of the night they didn’t allow much room for a sluggish and late arriving Orange County Blues offense.
The peak of drama landed squarely in the 73rd minute as the LA Galaxy defense was undone by some tight space passing and eventually saw a penalty kick awarded to the Blues. But, as he did in the previous playoff game, Diop was up to the task. The Los Dos ‘keeper dove to his right to save the shot of Didier Crettenand and preserved the second straight playoff shutout for the home team.
“I think as a team we know we’re really good at backing each other up. We’ve been working on penalty kicks pretty much every day and Diop always comes big and he’s shown well again today as he did in Sacramento. We have a lot of confidence in him and in our back line to win games.” LA Galaxy II Striker Ariel Lassiter
LA Galaxy II will now prepare themselves for the USL Western Conference Finals as they’ll look to head on the road to face either Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC or OKC Energy FC.
When asked about both teams Lassitter seemed confident when explaining the challenges they would bring to the table. “Colorado is a good team, they’ve got good attacking players. And OKC is a good all around team as well. They’ve got a good defensive line. We’ve just got to go and play our game. We’re the best team in USL on the road. If we just stay focused we’ll get the job done.”
Onalfo also seemed confident and eager to found out who his next opponent would be. “Nine wins on the road. Wherever we go we know it’s going to be tough. If it’s Colorado it’s the altitude and they’re a very, very good team. And then OKC has been almost unbeatable at home.”
Regardless of their opponent, this young LA Galaxy II team may’ve found the perfect time to bring everything together.
OKC Energy FC hosts Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC on Sunday October 4th. The winner will host LA Galaxy II.