After a successful inaugural season that ended with a first-round playoff disappointment, Los Angeles FC is back and hungry for more.
Led by superstar Mexican captain Carlos Vela, the side has started off the 2019 MLS Season with six victories, a draw and a loss in eight matches. The six wins were against Sporting Kansas City, Portland Timbers, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes, D.C. United and Cincinnati.
Its only draw came against New York City FC, which can’t seem to win a game. Its only loss came recently against the Vancouver Whitecaps, a fluke result when compared to the team’s previous strong performances.
The hot start has brought LAFC to the top of the Western Conference, ahead of the Seattle Sounders and LAFC’s own crosstown rival, the LA Galaxy. The streak is impressive, but the manner in which LAFC took down its opponents deserves massive credit.
LAFC can proudly say that it owns the record for most goals in MLS history through six games; the club’s 19 goals in six games beat the previous mark held by the LA Galaxy.
But the dominant stats don’t end there. Besides goals scored, LAFC also currently leads the MLS in assists, shots, shots on goal, goals per game and goal differential.
Its forwards are currently two of the top three goal scorers in MLS: Carlos Vela (1st) and Diego Rossi (tied for 2nd with LA Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic). The pair have combined for 14 goals scored so far, outscoring 19 of the other 23 MLS teams this season.
When Vela and Rossi scored hat tricks against the San Jose Earthquakes and D.C. United, respectively, LAFC became the first team in MLS to net back-to-back hat tricks away from home.
Vela, the captain, is surely LAFC’s standout player. As if leading the league in goals scored wasn’t impressive enough, the striker is also the assists leader in the MLS, staking an early claim for MVP candidacy. The former Arsenal and Real Sociedad forward attracted interest from FC Barcelona earlier this year, and he’s proven why.
Despite the promising start, critics say that tougher tasks lie ahead for LAFC, and it’s true, for the season is still young. But that doesn’t mean that we should take our eyes off what LAFC manager Bob Bradley has instilled in his men in the off-season.
The former U.S. National Team coach has surely reflected on last season’s playoff letdown, and his exciting, attacking brand of football is manifesting brilliantly so far.
It’s clear that the team has developed the chemistry necessary to compete with the best of the MLS. But to solidify its status as a great team, LAFC will have to prolong its success; anything other than another playoff berth this season will be considered a failure.
Players’ eyes will be set on progressing further than last season, which is certainly a realistic goal.
In fact, winning the MLS Cup would be a sensible objective, considering that Atlanta United’s recent inaugural season ended with a first-round playoff exit — but they returned the next season to win it all.
The pride of Los Angeles sports rests in the hands of the LAFC and the LA Galaxy, as the city’s fans have suffered frequently and devastatingly in recent times: back-to-back World Series losses for the Dodgers, a Super Bowl defeat for the Rams and the Lakers’ playoff exclusions, to name a few.
If Vela and company can keep up their form, LAFC will be in a prime position to bring Los Angeles the glory it deserves.