It was another stylish win for Los Angeles Football Club Saturday against Real Salt Lake in Utah as midfielder turned right back Latif Blessing, not for the first time this season, sacrificed his role at the center of the park following defender Walker Zimmerman’s first-half red card.
Manager Bob Bradley was forced to reach into the bag of tricks and properly earn his squad’s 2-0 victory which, in the end, finished with 20 players on the pitch.
Playoffs Clinched for LAFC
Surging San Jose Visit The Banc
Following the 3-2 derby debacle loss against the Los Angeles Galaxy back in July, first-place LAFC are now on a four-game win streak as they go into the last nine games of the regular season with a separation of 16 points from Western Conference no. 2 Minnesota United.
No team has been better in its last 10 matches than Minnesota, but a summer surge from fellow Californians San Jose Earthquakes (which saw them go 8-3-1 from May 18 to August 3) sees the northern club as one of the hottest teams in the west alongside United and LAFC.
Manager of the year candidates Bradley and San Jose’s Matias Almeyda will face-off for the third time this season with tonight’s kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. (UniMas, Twitter).
The U.S. Open Cup matchup back in June ended in a 3-1 win for LAFC which wasn’t easy. Back in March, when San Jose was coming off three consecutive losses to start the season, Bradley’s side battered the Black and Blue 5-0 in a one-sided contest. The following 13 games would see Almeyda heavily improve a team that would go 7-4-2 in that span.
Vela Lighting The Way
Vela and his men are in a club of their own, clinching a playoff berth with nine games remaining. With October 19, the start of the postseason, two months away, the Mexican international will have to find a way to continue his form well into November.
With 24 goals through 25 games, Vela is seven goals short of equaling Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez‘s 2018 regular-season record of 31 goals. Speaking of records, Vela has already surpassed a legendary one. With his 39th goal/assists this season from the penalty spot against Real, the Mexican has gone ahead of Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco‘s 2015 best of 38 combined goals and assists.
Regardless of his personal achievements, Vela told the media last week following a 4-2 win against New York Red Bulls that he and the team know the season is like two tournaments in one.
“We need to finish well in this one but we also have to focus on the fact that the games will become life or death,” Vela said.
“We have to be even more concentrated and try to better what we did last season which was elimination in the first round. I think it’s a clear example of if we don’t learn from our mistakes we are going to have problems.”
First Club To Win Both
It’ll be a tough task for the Black and Gold to win both the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup playoffs. No team has done it before and with last season’s Supporters’ Shield champions Columbus Crew dropping out in the Eastern Conference final, LAFC will be on high-alert as we approach October.