Ta’s Timeout: What could have been: A disappointing end to a great inaugural season for LAFC

Graphic by Emma Li

In the beginning of the 2018 Major League Soccer season, Los Angeles football fans had plenty of reason to be excited and hopeful. Expansion squad Los Angeles Football Club was expected to bring a new dynamic to the league and the five-time MLS Champions LA Galaxy were poised to compete amongst the best, following the signing of eleven-time Swedish footballer of the year, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Despite the excitement that Ibrahimovic brought to the Galaxy, the focus of the soccer culture in the city were placed on the new boys in town, as it was them who would prove to be the more successful of the two LA sides.

The LA Galaxy failed to reach the MLS Cup Playoffs by one victory, falling short to the Houston Dynamo in their last regular season match Oct. 28.

The club started well in the first half with striker Ola Kamara scoring two goals in four minutes.
However, Houston proved to be relentless, as they completed a second half comeback to defeat the Galaxy 3-2, ending their playoff push for good.

On the other hand, expansion side LAFC surpassed the expectations of many, by joining an exclusive group of teams who qualified for the MLS Cup playoffs in their first year of play. This group includes the 1998 Chicago Fire, the 1998 Miami Fusion, the 2009 Seattle Sounders, and the 2017 Atlanta United.

Although LAFC can be proud of their inaugural season, their players and fans also have reason to be disappointed with how it ended. The expansion club, led by Mexican international Carlos Vela, was stunned by Real Salt Lake in their playoff opener last Thursday.

Midfielder Damir Kreilach gave Real Salt Lake the lead off a beautiful cross from winger Brooks Lennon in the 21st minute. LAFC responded with the equalizer 10 minutes later, off a set piece that resulted in a header from defender Danilo Silva.

LAFC would start the second half how they ended the first, taking the lead in the 54th minute on striker Christian Ramirez’s wonderful strike. The game proved to be far from over as Real Salt Lake’s Damir Kreilach stunned the entire stadium with a karate kick equalizer from outside the penalty box.

Things went from bad to worse in the 69th minute when Real Salt Lake striker Jefferson Savarino took a shot that deflected off LAFC defender Walker Zimmerman into the back of the net. The own goal by Zimmerman would prove to be the deciding point, knocking LAFC out of their first playoff game ever.

Despite the disappointing result, LAFC players have expressed how proud they are of the club’s first season accomplishments.

“I’m proud of every single one of the guys in the locker room and the effort that was left out there,” striker Christian Ramirez told reporters after the match.

As the team who set the record for most points earned by an expansion side, LAFC will be reflecting on their accomplishments and mistakes, as well as what could have been an even greater season. But for now they must transform their regrets into motivation for the 2019 season, which starts with preseason camp in January.

Danny Ta PO ’22 is a prospective math major from Ontario, CA. In his free time, he enjoys being frustrated by the inconsistency of his favorite soccer team, Manchester United.

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