LAFC have eight more games left in the regular season, against seven opponents, and while we already know they have at least one playoff game (hopefully more) to come, Saturday’s wobble against the San Jose Earthquakes has given rise to some concerns they may falter down the stretch of this campaign.
Put simply, last week had “trap game(s)” written all over it and it somewhat came to fruition. First playing a D.C. United team that has been pretty abject, with a new goalkeeper in place in David Ochoa, D.C.’s goalkeeper was no longer literally getting out of the way to allow the other team to score in bunches, and that likely played a role. But LAFC looked tight in that game, too, and kind of squeaked out a 1-0 win at home.
But still, job done there. Then there was the road trip to San Jose, and after LAFC won the first encounter between the teams 3-2, and the Earthquakes seem to have figured out the pain points on LAFC the past couple years, it seemed likely it would not be a walk in the park. It wasn’t, LAFC was tight again, and even with Kwadwo Opoku continuing his terrific form of late to get an equalizer, the black-and-gold conceded a golazo to lose the game 2-1. Job not done.
You can point to a few factors that contributed to the loss, in my opinion. First, it was on short-ish rest, and in the dog days of summer, you can see some unusual results around MLS. Maybe more importantly, Steve Cherundolo did major rotation of the game, changing five starters and bringing in Ryan Hollingshead as a midfielder. With no designated players on the field to start, no big-name additions involved, there was an air of disrespect entering the game.
Here’s how I imagine the Quakes responded when they saw LAFC’s XI pregame:
Truthfully, Cherundolo has done a good job this season in terms of rotating his squads and bringing players in off the bench during games, so if it didn’t work this time, he probably deserves the benefit of the doubt in general.
The other factor that may have played into this trap game for LAFC is they were unlikely to never lose again. They entered the match on a club-record seven-game winning streak. No team in MLS has had an invincible season, and no team has come close, frankly. Even great teams will lose a few along the way.
But moving forward, LAFC need to do all they can to pick up points the rest of the way. First, the Supporters’ Shield is not yet fully theirs, with the Philadelphia Union currently only six points back, albeit having played an additional game than LAFC. Even Austin FC, nine points back, have a chance to get back in the running on Friday when they host LAFC, one of the league’s biggest regular season games. Austin are the only team to have beaten LAFC at home this season, so it would be nice if the black-and-gold return the gesture at Q2 Stadium, and end Austin’s Shield bid in 2022 hopefully for good.
The remaining regular season schedule is against Western Conference opposition. Five of the seven teams are above the playoff line at present, one is just below it, and the only repeat opponent, the Houston Dynamo, are well out of the playoff race this year. But given LAFC haven’t faced them yet, who knows? Maybe they’ll be like the Earthquakes and be much trickier than anticipated in the two upcoming games.
LAFC are a good team and one loss in the regular season doesn’t change that. They are likely to rebound from this setback like they’ve done all year and we’ll forget this blip. But with the end of the season approaching, the playoffs looming, teams get a little wiggle room to screw up in the regular season here, only if they come good for the titles to be yet won. Hopefully we saw that from LAFC, and they’ll push on to have the kind of stellar season we’re all expecting when 2022 is done.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.