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    Carlos Vela, Stipe Biuk spark late surge as LAFC shuts out St. Louis City
    • July 13, 2023

    LOS ANGELES — Three second-half goals propelled the Los Angeles Football Club to an important victory over Western Conference leaders St. Louis City SC on Wednesday night.

    Late finishes by Carlos Vela, Stipe Biuk and Jose Cifuentes secured a key result over the high-flying expansion team, positioning the Black & Gold two points back of the leaders with a dozen regular-season games left.

    A pedestrian opening half came and went without a shot on goal until St. Louis rolled a harmless attempt at John McCarthy a minute prior to the break.

    Playing behind a back line that did not include MLS All-Star Tim Parker for only the third time in St. Louis’ 22 regular-season matches, Swiss goalkeeper Roman Burki, the team’s other All-Star, was in search of a third consecutive shutout win.

    With more than an hour gone in the match, it looked like Burki would skate through without having to do much.

    But then LAFC (10-6-6, 36 points) found a spark, scoring three goals in 20 minutes to end the visitors’ three-match winning streak.

    The sequence began when defender Denil Maldonado won a duel near the right corner spot and drove the ball toward the center of the park.

    St. Louis (12-8-2, 38 points) headed it in the direction of the LAFC net, and the ball fell directly in front of Cifuentes, who hit a one-time switch kick with enough English to fall softly and check up in front of a sprinting Vela.

    The LAFC captain needed two touches to keep chasing defenders at bay and ended Burki’s shutout streak on a perfectly placed shot with the outside of his left foot that sailed into the upper corner of the far post.

    The goal was Vela’s seventh of the season.

    Ten minutes later, LAFC’s Mexican captain unlocked the club’s second finish with a backheel pass to Denis Bouanga in their own half. The French forward busted down the left side where he spotted Biuk running free.

    Bouanga’s assist was sealed when Biuk hit a one-timer for his third goal of the year that left Burki frozen in his tracks.

    In stoppage time, Cifuentes added his first goal of 2023 to go with his earlier assist, his fourth of the season. Again Maldonado pushed the ball forward, this time on the dribble, and he found Nathan Ordaz, who floated a pass to Cifuentes standing at the top of the St. Louis box.

    One touch and a blast with his left foot sealed the statement victory, leaving the hosts feeling much better about themselves with one game remaining before the month-long break for the Leagues Cup.

    The dominant finish improved LAFC’s record against MLS expansion teams to 7-0, outscoring St. Louis, Cincinnati, Miami, Austin and Charlotte by a combined 17-1.

    More to come on this story.

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    ​ Orange County Register