LAFC looked like themselves again during the latest El Tráfico.
On Saturday evening, a 4-2 home win over arch-rival LA Galaxy helped the Black & Gold recover from a frustrating three-game skid that saw them manage just two goals. Now, with six regular-season matches remaining, they sit on 43 points and are second in the Western Conference, six points behind St. Louis CITY SC with a game in hand.
It wasn't all smooth sailing in Matchday 32 – they gave up two leads to the Galaxy before putting them away – but Steve Cherundolo's team ultimately avenged a 2-1 loss at the Rose Bowl on July 4.
"Much-needed three points. I was happy with the response from the guys all week," Cherundolo said after the match. "They were very focused, and I think it was clear from minute one who was winning this game tonight. I think we were the better team, had the better chances. Statistics would speak for that as well."
Bouanga leads the way
Much of LAFC's success down the stretch, and in the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs, will be tied to the play of Dénis Bouanga. The Gabon international forward found himself mired in a three-match scoreless streak before his brace vs. LA, which lifted him to 14 goals on the season, now tied with two others (Atlanta United's Giorgos Giakoumakis and Nashville SC's Hany Mukhtar) for the MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi lead.
Cherundolo described Bouanga's brief scoreless spell with an interesting saying from his adopted homeland of Germany, where he played and coached for nearly two decades.
"If you have dog s--- on your shoe, you really have dog s--- on your shoe," Cherundolo said. " ... It's tough to get it off your shoe and you're just in that phase for a while. It sticks around for a little bit.
"Sometimes attackers go through these phases and Dénis has a lot of quality. He's shown this time and time again – 'I'm just going to wait it out, keep things simple and the ball will fall again.'"
No. 1 seed in reach
LAFC and St. Louis meet Wednesday (8:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass) in a matchup that carries heavy implications in the race for the West's No. 1 seed.
It's part of a busy week for the Black & Gold, who now head to CITYPARK with an eye toward climbing closer still to the top of the West table.
As the defending MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield champions emerge from a slump, Cherundolo chalked up Saturday's bounce-back effort to a patient approach on the training ground that helped players round back into form.
"For me, there's only one way to fix things: to speak about it, to show the players and to work out on the training field and to give enough repetitions that the players feel comfortable with the solutions," Cherundolo said.
"And I think we've done a good job of addressing those and correcting things. And now the next step is to gain confidence and to build confidence and to keep growing on that. And we'll make sure that the little foundation we built over the past couple weeks gets added to it, and this victory tonight helps greatly."