The way I know I’m a fan of Los Angeles Football Club and not just a person who writes about them is that I’ve hesitated writing this story for months. Not because it’s not worthy to discuss — just how good have they been this season? Very! — but because I’m afraid of jinxing something. Yes, I know my words can have power, but not the power to make wins and losses, I’m not ridiculous. But such is the mindset of a supporter, right?
Anyway, LAFC are one game short of being exactly halfway through the regular-season league campaign, and with nearly a full month off in that competition, it’s a natural time to take stock of what’s happened this season. We’ll be bringing more stories this week in that vein, but let’s take a general view of how things are going. ***SPOILER ALERT***: It’s really good!
In case you’re not aware, LAFC are in first place, both in the Western Conference and in the league overall, with an 11-1-4 record, on 37 points. While some teams will play over the coming days in league play before their own Gold Cup break begins, LAFC currently sit nine points ahead of any team in the standings. That’s right, they currently have a three-win cushion ahead of everyone else in the Supporters’ Shield standings.
While LAFC’s history isn’t very long, to compare this to last year, they had a 9-4-3 record in their first 16 league games. Remarkably, that would also put them in first place in the Shield standings this season, too, so last year’s start is nothing to sneeze at.
In league history terms, LAFC’s 37 points through 16 games this year bests the 2018 New York Red Bulls, who posted the most points in a season to date with 71. Based on their points per game rate, LAFC are on pace for 78.54 points this season — not the same as playing the games, but they are on track for a record-smashing year at roughly the halfway point.
LAFC also have more wins than the 2018 Red Bulls, who had 10 through 16 games, while LAFC have 11.
LAFC also have a huge lead in goals scored this season, with 39. Next closest is the Philadelphia Union, with 28 through 15 games. In fact, the black-and-gold lead in all attacking categories by a significant margin.
All time, LAFC are not actually on a record-breaking pace, however. The 1998 LA Galaxy scored 85 goals in 32 games, a rate of 2.656 goals per game. LAFC are on a 2.437 goals per game rate, so they are within range, but they would need to improve the scoring in the remaining 18 games to beat the record.
For context, in 2018 LAFC had scored 35 goals through 16 games. Again, not actually far off what’s they’ve done this year (just four goals), but the 2019 edition is doing better.
The black-and-gold letting in four goals in their last two games hurt their eye-popping defensive stats a bit, but they have allowed just 13 goals in 16 games. Anytime you are allowing less than a goal per game, you’re doing very, very well, but Atlanta United currently have allowed the fewest goals in MLS this season, just 11 through 15 games. Perhaps the defending champs will let in a few goals in their next game, or maybe they’ll edge LAFC in that category.
Last season, LAFC had allowed 25 goals in 16 games. Here’s where we see a big difference year to year, a stat that confirms the eye test that LAFC’s ability to lock it down in the back has been a major contributor to their improved record and performances this year.
All-time, the team with the best goals conceded record across a season is the 2010 Real Salt Lake side, who allowed only 20 goals in 30 games. They allowed just 0.67 goals per game. LAFC’s current rate this season is 0.81 goals allowed per game. So like the goals scored all-time record, LAFC have a shot at the conceded record, but they’ll have to improve to better the best to date.
Probably the most common way to judge a team’s performance vs. results, and to see who is lucky and who is not, is using expected goals.
American Soccer Analysis keeps track of this, and much, much more, and their master xG table for the league shows LAFC with the best xG of the season through 15 games (last update), of 35.2. LAFC have scored 39 goals, you will recall, so they are scoring at a slightly better rate than their shot placement would expect them to be scoring at. Their expected goals allowed rate is 12 through 15 games, when they actually allowed nine, so they are outperforming xGA too, but not at a major rate. Overall, they lead the league according to ASA in xGD/game, at 1.55 through 15 games, which is far and away better than the rest of the league.
Elsewhere, what are LAFC’s prospects for the season? No one can predict the future, but FiveThirtyEight currently projects LAFC as the favorites across the board. Notably, as of today they have an 85% chance of winning the Supporters’ Shield, a lofty number but remember the lead they have in the race at present. Aside from that, they have a 99 percent chance of reaching the playoffs, which makes sense since the top seven from each conference will qualify this year and LAFC currently have an 18-point lead over the team in 7th place.
Now, FiveThirtyEight also projects LAFC the MLS Cup favorites, with a 43% chance of winning that at present. They could very well win it, but longtime watchers of MLS know that a Shield contender does not always make an MLS Cup winner.
So there you have it. LAFC have amassed an impressive lead through the almost-halfway point of the campaign, lead the way in goals scored and are just off the tops in goals allowed, and aren’t that far off all-time rates in those categories. They are understandably favorites for the Shield, and for now, also MLS Cup.
It’s worth asking: Do you think LAFC will win the Supporters’ Shield this season?
Will LAFC win the Supporters’ Shield in 2019?
This poll is closed
What do you think? Leave a comment below!