Carlos Vela is one of the five remaining players from the 2019 LAFC team to win the Supporters’ Shield and break the MLS record for points in a season. So with the team once again leading the way, just four points off the pace set in 2019, Vela was asked this week what his similarities are.
Not much, said the team captain, which explains the success of this season.
“We are a very strong team, more mature, more experienced,” he said.
This year with a lot of changes, the way we play, [we are] always in a good position to really believe in what we’re doing and get that motivation to really dream big.”
LAFC’s offseason change saw 10 players leave and eight in, and two of those additions played a key role in Friday’s sloppy 3-2 win over the Galaxy at the Banc of California Stadium, with Kellyn Acosta setting up the first goal with a corner and goalkeeper Maxime. Crepeau made four saves, one for a season high.
The first two scores, one in each half, came from José Cifuentes, the first multi-goal game of his MLS career, and the third was scored by Cristian Arango, who is 28th in 36 games for LAFC.
The win, the team’s fifth in the team’s last seven MLS games, leaves LAFC (12-4-3) five points clear of Austin in the Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield standings, and three goals extend the team’s league lead in terms of goals and objectives. differential. The result also ended LAFC’s five-game winless run against its local rivals.
For the Galaxy (8-7-3) defeat, their first of the season against a team in the top six of the league standings, leaves them just one point above the line separating the conference playoff teams from the nonqualifiers. The three goals allowed also equal a record high this season.
But for all the changes LAFC general manager John Thorrington has made on the pitch — Friday’s six starters, including Arango, were not with the current team last season — the most important difference is perhaps in front of the bench, where a relaxed Steve Cherundolo has replaced Bob. Fiery Bradley.
“They are like two opposite sides,” Vela said. “Bob is a really intense coach. He wants everything to be perfect.”
But with the Cherundolo, “it feels cooler, cooler,” Vela says. “He will let people enjoy [the game]. He would say, ‘Come on, follow some rules. But after that, just show your skills, your talent and do what’s best for the team.’”
It worked on Friday, with LAFC opening the scoring in the 17th minute when Cifuentes curled a corner to head home Acosta’s cross from the edge of the six-yard box. That’s a good sign as LAFC had won the previous eight matches in which he scored the first goal of the season.
But a sloppy pass plagued the team all night, allowing the Galaxy to equalize on Samuel Grandsir’s first goal of the season in the 55th minute.
Another Cifuentes header put LAFC back in front in the 70th minute and Arango scored two minutes later with a breakaway, a goal which proved to be the winner when Raveloson scored with his own header with nine minutes remaining in regulation.
But that’s as close as the Galaxy will get.
“Tonight,” Cherundolo said, “we had a little bit more than they had.”
But Vela, who made his team’s seventh assist in Cifuentes’ second scoring, warned that the team’s success heading into the second half of the season would not mean much if LAFC did not finish the year in the MLS Cup. The record-breaking 2019 season ended in defeat in the second playoff game, leaving the team with some unfinished business to take care of this fall.
“The most important part of the season is coming,” he said.