LOS ANGELES — In their short history, LAFC haven’t endured too many genuinely rough patches. They’ve lost two consecutive league games only twice — both during their 2018 expansion campaign. This season, they’ve lost only three league matches and dropped points in consecutive contests just once — back-to-back springtime draws against Seattle and Chicago.
The Black & Gold’s worst league stretch ever came during a five-game winless streak last season that went from the mid-July into mid-August, covering their 19th to 23rd matches of the 2018 campaign.
After a round 21 loss against the LA Galaxy last week and a tricky upcoming string of games — including visits from Atlanta (Friday, 10 pm ET | ESPN in US; TSN2 in Canada), New York Red Bulls, San Jose and their rivals from Carson plus trips to New England and Salt Lake — by the time the summer has passed and Minnesota United visit the Banc on September 1st, there’s a sense we’ll have a better sense of whether LAFC’s 2019 season will indeed set historic records.
There’s a tendency to want to pin a specific number of points as a goal to aim for during the tricky stretch like the Black & Gold have ahead of them — but that’s not to say the club is looking it that way.
“I think you’re selling yourself short when you do that,” said midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye when asked about goals for his team’s upcoming matches. “You actually mess up the mentality of the group. For us, we always try to look at, play the next game, win the next game.”
Kaye pointed out the tough stretches that LAFC have already been through this season, how they’ve bounced back from poor results to prove their resiliency. His coach agreed.
“I think we knew it from the beginning, in June you lose guys [on international duty], then we have this five games in 14 days and I think we’ve handled all these challenges,” said Bob Bradley.
The LAFC boss posed an idea of how the MLS season could be looked at as four separate seasons — an exciting early season, the schedule-congested summer, the scramble for playoffs, and then the post-season itself. Asked whether he was worried about a summer malaise setting in this season, the way it might have during last year’s disappointing stretch, the coach wasn’t totally convinced.
“It’s a little bit of the dog days of MLS, when you have a league that plays through the summer,” he said, but pointed out that LAFC’s upcoming stretch will be balanced by a more normalized training schedule. “We do feel like the routine, that our work in a week, is important. It makes players better. It’s how we establish our ideas in the way we play. You do it in the early part of the season knowing you’ll have stretches where weeks will be different and all that good work carries you through the tougher periods. Then when you have a chance to get back to the more regular weeks, I think it’s very positive.”
Kaye was unequivocal when discussion the timing or location of the upcoming matches on LAFC’s calendar, insisting that the team remain focused on a match-to-match basis. That starts Friday against a team LAFC will look to emulate when it comes to MLS Cup time, but who they would do well to one-up when it comes to the Supporters' Shield chase — last season Atlanta United looked like they would finish top of the overall MLS table only for a late collapse to hand that silverware to the New York Red Bulls.
“We have to get off on the right foot, so you get a good result against Atlanta, and then that sets you up for the next game,” said the Canadian midfielder. “You have to take the opportunities you have at home to make sure that when you go away, you’re in a good mindset to get a win or something on the road. I think last year, we didn’t look too much into that because we were brand new and we were just going with the flow a little bit. Now we understand we’re in a very good position to win this league and we don’t want to take anything for granted so we want to make sure we’re up for every game, home or away."