Is an early-season Supporters’ Shield preview on deck Saturday night at Banc of California Stadium (11 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+)?
LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo wouldn’t quite go that far during his Week 10 preview press conference, as his Western Conference-leading charges get ready to host the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia Union.
The clubs have won two of the past three Shields, with LAFC hoisting 2019’s version before Philly did the same in 2020.
“This is the 10th game of a 34-game season, so I don’t want to overemphasize anything,” Cherundolo said. “I think this is just one moment of a season where both teams happen to be on top of the table. That could change in a couple of weeks, so I don’t think it would be smart of us to make a big deal out of that. But for the moment, it’s a team that is winning games and is in a good moment and is a tough team to beat and a tough team to score on. That is what we’ll deal with first.”
LAFC, sparked by a plus-13 goal differential in the second half and eight goals scored by substitutes, have equaled their best start in club history (2019). They’re on 22 points, with their sole loss coming in El Trafico to the LA Galaxy.
It’s a similar story from Philadelphia, whose 18 points are their most through nine games of a season. Last weekend they weathered Nashville SC opening GEODIS Park, setting for a 1-1 draw.
Take care of business against Jim Curtin’s team, midfielder Ilie Sanchez said, and topics like the Shield will chart their natural course.
“Our mentality here is to go with the highest goals, and for us right now in this competition is the Supporters’ Shield,” the Spanish No. 6 observed. “I’m not saying we have in our minds to win the Supporters’ Shield [because] we don’t look at the standings yet. It’s the beginning of the season, the 10th game for us, and being able to get as many points as we can now, it’s going to get us closer to bigger goals at the end.”
Perhaps working in LAFC’s favor, Philadelphia have taken two of the past nine available points after rattling off a five-game winning streak early on. US men’s national team midfielder Kellyn Acosta is wary of the threat they’ll pose, though.
“This weekend Philly’s going to be a great test, a team that’s first in the East right now,” Acosta said. “Very high intensity, pressing team, aggressive and they’ve been scoring a lot of goals. So we definitely have to be mindful of them, especially in dangerous areas.”
It’s a similar message from Cherundolo, who hailed Philly’s “very pragmatic way of playing” as remarkably effective. How that shapes the year-end Shield race, he’s waiting for final judgments.
“I’m not sure there are any indicators right now who is a Supporters’ Shield favorite and who’s not. Ask me that question again in about four months,” Cherundolo said with a cheeky smile.