While the other two LA top flight soccer teams are in a complete state of tension and dread as they hang on to hope that their respective teams can secure a spot in the postseason, LAFC sit as comfortably as Eddie Murphy poolside of that house he didn't own. That is to say, they've already clinched the playoffs, already won the Western Conference, which comes with a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout. So what then is left to play for as the team take the pitch against he Portland Timbers this Sunday with just two matches left in the regular season? The Supporters’ Shield for one, regaining some much-needed form ahead of the playoffs, more importantly.
No place like it— LAFC (@LAFC) September 19, 2022
Good morning, Los Angeles. pic.twitter.com/RHeWSmgdii
While they sit tied on points with Philadelphia Union, LAFC hold the tie-breaker and thus, control their destiny. All they have to do is keep pace with the Union, but better yet, just win. Especially when you consider recent form. It's no secret the team has struggled massively on the road for the past couple of months now, breaking two multi-match losing streaks only when getting to play at the friendly confines of The Banc. As of all that wasn't enough, there's also the very real possibility that this Sunday could be a preview of the first round match-up for LAFC in the postseason. Depending on how the standings finalize, the Timbers could be one upset in Austin away from a match with the black-and-gold in what would be LAFC’s first playoff match. Given the history between these two clubs, that makes Sunday all the more important in terms of setting the tone and making a statement.
The last time these two teams faced off in MLS action was Week Two, with the match ending in a draw, and in typical fashion, ended with a total of six yellow cards and one red card for the visiting Timbers. The last time these two met in any competition, was in the Round of 32 of the U.S. Open Cup, where LAFC enjoyed a comfortable 2-0 win, but this weekend will be vastly different from either of those. Portland are fighting for their playoff lives, and a win at their home this weekend would all but solidify their place in the postseason.
Expect this match to be your typical physical, B-Side rivalry match for LAFC. Timbers have everything to play for, and while the ultimate goal for Los Angeles is winning it all, losing the Supporters’ Shield, right at the end of the season, after staying in control for a majority of the year, would certainly feel like a massive disappointment.
Which is why Sunday is so important for LAFC, despite having checked off every major box this season already. The one thing this team has yet to prove, is their ability to finish. One Finals appearance across all competitions, over five years for a team that has always been supremely talented. The last couple months may have been rough, but the time to start finishing, is now. Show that you can take care of business on the road, even though you won't have to in most, if not all, the playoffs. Show that you're ready for what is going to a gauntlet of a tournament to secure the MLS Cup. More importantly secure the Supporters’ Shield for the second time, and for the first time, finish the season strong enough to lift the biggest prize left up for grabs.
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