LA Football Club Head to Playoffs
Final Regular Season Game this Sunday
October 3, 2019
History is waiting at the Banc. Already having secured home field advantage for the MLS Cup Playoffs by winning the Supporters' Shield for the league's best record after last Wednesday's 3-1 clincher over the Houston Dynamo, Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC)is one win away from setting the total point record in their final match of the 2019 regular season.
"I think every game we've played lately has been a test because teams have had different strategies about how they want to play us," said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley. "Sometimes we've had to come from behind. Today we had the lead... It helps a team understand anything that can come our way, we're ready for them.
After earning a 1-1 draw at Minnesota United FC on Sunday night, LAFC has 69 points, two less than the mark set by the New York Red Bulls with 71 just last season. A win over the Colorado Rapids this coming Sunday afternoon, starting 1p.m. at Banc of California Stadium will give the Black and Gold the three points needed for the record.
LAFC was a bit unlucky not getting the win for three points against Minnesota. They controlled the ball for two-thirds of the match, out-passed the Loons in accuracy, 85% to 69%, while out-shooting them, 20-14. Unfortunately, 11 LAFC shots were off-target, four were blocked and only one of five crossed the goal line.
That moment occurred in the 70th minute when forward Carlos Vela curled a left-footed beauty into the far left corner of the net over Loon goalkeeper Vito Mannone 's right shoulder. For Vela, his 31st goal of the season tied the MLS scoring record set by Josef Martinez of Atlanta United just last season.
"Of course, my team has a lot to be involved in this record," Vela said. "I'm really happy to be part of this. I hope next Sunday we can finish in a good way at home and finish the record with points and my record. So, this is an exciting week for us."
LAFC's 1-0 lead lasted a mere five minutes. Minnesota defender Michael Boxall deflected a well-placed header on a free-kick set piece over goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega who had positioned himself just inside the keeper's box, leaving room for Boxall's glancing blow. Yet Sisniega was spot-on from shots by Loon forward Angelo Rodriguez, who was denied four times from basically point blank.
Bradley: "Rodriguez is such a different kind of player to come in that I think we were too anxious sometimes to try to win the ball often, which is what he wants because he is very good at using his body. But then Pablo Siesniega made a couple of big saves."
"I think our offensive markings, especially in the first half were really good," Sisniega said. "Our counter press was really good. We had a much better first half than last game. It's a shame we couldn't put the game away but I think we had a good game. It's always tough playing on the road. We'll be all right."
The match also saw the LAFC debut of defender Diego "El Chiqui" Palocios of Ecuador. The 20-year old was recently acquired in August using Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) from Ecuadorian club SD Aucas. Chiqui had a very successful start at fullback, a very demanding position in LAFC's scheme, though he was late on the backside during Boxall's equalizer.
"I thought Chiqui did real well," said Bradley. "Read plays, made good passes, quick. So for a young player who's just came in and not had that many training sessions yet, a really good first game... really good."
LAFC finished with a league-best eight wins, three losses and six draws on the road. New York City FC was the only other MLS team this season to have a better than .500 record at 6-5-5.
"We love playing in the Banc. Certainly, when our supporters are behind us that's an extra little bit that goes a long way. But this year we've taken a lot of pride in our away record," Bradley said.
Currently, the only thing on LAFC's mind is Sunday's final regular season match hosting the Colorado Rapids. Even though they have a bye in Round 1 and home-field advantage throughout the MLS Cup Playoffs starting in a few weeks, Bradley will be playing his starters... and a chance to set the record for the best season ever in Major League Soccer.
It's not going to be a cakewalk regardless of LAFC's home record, 12-1-3, also the league's best. The Rapids have won five of their last six matches including this past Sunday's 3-0 drubbing over FC Dallas. Their top four scorers are forwards led by Forward Kei Kamara with 13 goals followed by Diego Rubio who has 11. Midfielder Jack Price leads Colorado with 11 assists.
"You have to rotate when you play three games in nine days," said Bradley after Sunday's 1-1 draw with the Loons. "But now we have a week and we feel really good that guys that have been there for us all year can finish strong. And we would also love to set the point record. Once again, do it in front of our home fans."