Denis Bouanga has hat trick, propels LAFC past Minnesota 5-1 and into a playoff spot


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Denis Bouanga scored three times in a first-half barrage to take the Major League Soccer goals lead, and Los Angeles FC clinched a playoff spot with a 5-1 victory over Minnesota United on Wednesday night.
Bouanga ended LAFC’s four-match, 372-minute scoreless streak in the fourth minute of its regular-season home finale. He added two more goals before the halftime whistle, and the defending MLS Cup champions cruised through the second half to move into third place in the Western Conference.
Filip Krastev added his first MLS goal for LAFC in the second half. LAFC is unbeaten in its last seven matches against Minnesota.
Hassani Dotson scored in the fourth minute of the worst defensive game of the season by Minnesota, which has flopped down the stretch with a seven-game winless skid (0-4-3) since August. That matches the Loons’ longest winless skid in MLS play, set in 2018.
Bouanga’s hat trick gave him 17 goals this season, pushing him ahead of Cincinnati’s Luciano Acosta (16) for the Golden Boot as MLS’ top goal-scorer.
Minnesota momentarily went ahead on a lengthy counterattack ending in Dotson’s header of a deflected ball for his second goal of the season.
LAFC answered only two minutes later, with Bouanga converting Mateusz Bogusz’s pass for his 15th goal of the season. Their club hadn’t scored since Timothy Tillman’s late goal in its 4-2 El Trafico victory over the LA Galaxy on Sept. 16.
Bouanga came through again in the 36th minute, taking Diego Palacios’ superb cross in the air and banging it into the low corner. He completed the hat trick in the first minute of injury time, blasting a short-angled shot past goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair.
LAFC went up 4-1 early in the second half on an own-goal that went in off Minnesota’s Miguel Tapias. Krastev scored four minutes after the Bulgarian midfielder came on as a substitute, leading a ruthless counterattack in the 67th minute.
AP soccer:


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