The bottom line is clear: If LAFC win all of the rest of their games in 2022, they will finish the MLS season in very successful fashion.
It’s a pretty stunning turn of events, after hitting a bad slump lately, going from runaway Supporters’ Shield leaders to overtaken by the Philadelphia Union in the past week, picking up just one point in their last five road games. In the past month, we’ve gone from wondering if LAFC can be the best team ever to fearing they will put in the biggest capitulation in recent MLS history.
But, following a rather-routine 3-1 home win on Sunday, coupled with the Union playing a scoreless draw at Atlanta United on Saturday, means the teams are now tied atop the Shield standings, with LAFC holding the tiebreaker edge and therefore ahead...for now.
While winning out in the regular season would ensure the Shield and obviously help us all breathe easier in the process, LAFC need to at least stay even on points with the Union in the final games. If both teams take six points, LAFC will take the Shield. If both teams take one point, LAFC will take the Shield.
Now, it’s not necessarily an easy road for LAFC, and they can’t take anything for granted. Here’s the road through Decision Day for LAFC:
- Sunday, Oct. 2: LAFC @ Portland Timbers
- Sunday, Oct. 9: LAFC vs. Nashville SC
That’s not impossible, and LAFC have beaten both teams this season, but given the recent road woes, an away game in Portland is always a tough task and the pressure is ratcheted up for this one. Plus, Nashville are likely in the playoffs but between Hany Mukhtar’s MVP campaign and Walker Zimmerman likely to want to get some revenge on his old team, that is not going to be an easy Decision Day clash, even at home.
In contrast, the Union’s final two regular season games are at Charlotte FC — Charlotte’s been pretty good for an expansion team but will likely come up short for a playoff spot — and at home against Toronto FC — officially eliminated from the playoffs already but with not-stinky players Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi on Bob Bradley’s current team. On paper, Philly have a much easier schedule than LAFC, but that’s why we play the games, etc.
Even with all that, the road for LAFC is easy if they win out in the last two games. The pressure is on, but they don’t necessarily have to worry about what the Union do, if the black-and-gold take care of business themselves.
From there, regardless of how the regular season ends for LAFC, they will need three wins to advance in the MLS Cup playoffs and win MLS Cup this year. It’s a single-elimination format this season, and LAFC have already clinched a first-round bye. Obviously they need to win these three games (or draw and advance through penalty shootout but let’s not muddy the waters here) to lift MLS Cup, but the road is crystal clear. We’ll talk about the playoffs more when we get to it, but it’s worth underlining how clear the objective is for LAFC at this point.
Coming back to the bottom line: If LAFC win five more games to close out 2022, it will be a very successful end to the season. They have to take it one game at a time, of course, and no matter what happens at the end of the regular season, the playoffs are ahead. But right now, LAFC control their destiny, and if they continue to win, they will hold the edge as they play these final games in 2022.
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