LAFC officially secured their third consecutive MLS Cup Playoff berth with Wednesday night's 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo.
But if they want their third postseason to go differently than the previous two, Wednesday's level of play wasn't good enough, said LAFC manager Bob Bradley.
"Tonight has got to be a game that we look at as a lesson," Bradley said in his postgame remarks. "We've got two regular seasons games left. And we've got to be harder on each other, we've got to raise the bar a little bit. Because that kind of game, that sloppiness, that carelessness, at the end of the year when games really matter, that won't add up."
On another night, it may well have been different. LAFC outshot Houston 28-9, but only put five efforts on frame, including Diego Rossi's and Eddie Segura's goals.They failed to put more distance between themselves and the Dynamo even while playing the final half-hour up a man after Matias Vera's dismissal.
What Bradley wants to see improved isn't hard to discern, he insisted.
"You guys can see it," he said. "I want the passing to be sharper, when we have advantages I want to finish chances. When we lose balls, I want reactions to be faster. There were so many times in the first half, every time we stepped up to press, we were late and they played right through us."
"Give a lot of credit to Kenneth Vermeer," Bradley said. "He made a couple of really big saves, including the penalty. I know that his attitude has been great with Pablo throughout."
And there was Carlos Vela's 30-minute shift off the bench, his second following a lengthy injury layoff, opening the door for more extended action in the final two regular season matches.
"That's the plan," Bradley said. "We're trying to go step by step."