Sporting Kansas City did a lot right at Banc of California Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Belying their poor start to the season, the Midwesterners proved a tough out against LAFC, scoring the game’s first goal, stifling their hosts in midfield for long stretches and minimizing Carlos Vela’s impact.

SKC will fly home empty-handed just the same, and many of the Banc’s other 2022 visitors will too, based on the depth, persistence and relentlessness shown by LAFC in the 3-1 victory that draws them level with the Philadelphia Union – and ahead on goal differential – atop the early MLS standings with a 5W-1L-1D record.

Well-taken goals from substitutes Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and Jose Cifuentes broke a halftime deadlock as the Black & Gold rebounded from last week’s El Trafico defeat to the LA Galaxy in some style, and left Peter Vermes and his side rueful.

“We're happy with the victory. It was the right response from last week, after our first defeat of the season,” said LAFC boss Steve Cherundolo, declaring himself “quite pleased with the energy, the mentality of the guys not to accept anything less than three points today.”

Despite those opening words, the first-year boss at times sounded more like the losing coach in his postgame press conference, pointing out areas where he sees room for improvement and underlining the high expectations in and around his talent-laden squad. Cherundolo’s side have scored a co-league-best 17 goals, and of the seven they’ve conceded, impressively, not a single one has been leaked in the second half.

But he wants them to be a bit closer to perfection.

“Unfortunately, we've started games slowly this year. So we've tried to correct that,” said Cherundolo. “And this team has a lot of quality. They know how to defend, and they know how to do things right, and they know how to win games. Sometimes they just need a little reminder from us at half. For some reason we've been a slow-starting team, but we’ve finished off very strong in every game.

“So the fitness question is not presenting itself; we’re fit, we're ready to go for 90. I would prefer that stat in the first half to be better. But obviously, the effort towards the end of games to finish games off also speaks to the experience we have in this team, and a guy like Max [Maxime Crepeau] in goal. So our second halves, our ability to finish games off, I think is a big difference from last season.”

Cherundolo got philosophical as he explained his halftime message to his charges.

“It's actually quite simple and it has nothing to do with winning or losing. It is purely playing up to our potential, as a group, but also for each individual,” he said. “That's how I judge and view success. We are maximizing our potential. And if we are not, then I will make sure they know that. And that is how I view my job.

“I don't understand why we would accept anything less than playing to our limits, or on the edge of our limitations, and going for it every single minute. Again you saw today, we have a fantastic bench, we're a very deep team and they made a difference today. So for everybody who starts the game, it's very clear: It's 100% all the time, because we can make additions.”

Tajouri-Shradi and his 70th-minute game-winning wonderstrike, a “back-breaker,” in Vermes’ words, showcased that wealth of riches Cherundolo can call upon when Plan A doesn’t unfold in ideal fashion. A pelvis injury forced the Swiss-Libyan winger to weather a difficult start in Los Angeles after he arrived from New York City FC over the winter, but he now looks set to give the coaching staff a welcome selection conundrum along a front line rich with menacing options.

“That shows the character of this group, that we never give up,” said Tajouri-Shradi of Sunday’s comeback. “Doesn't matter if we go down, we can see that last week when we went down 2-0 [to the Galaxy], we came out and we tried our best, we almost draw the game. So that's the character of this group that we never give up, and we can see as well today, 1-0 down, we came back, 3-1.”

Asked about his golazo, a half-volleyed thunderbolt out of nowhere after a direct ball over the top from his teammate Diego “Chiqui” Palacios, Tajouri-Shradi cracked a smile and took a victory lap.

“The coaches are always saying, ‘go behind, go behind,’ so I did it,” he said. “The first thing was a perfect ball from Chiqui and then I just thought, ‘OK, I have to. I'm going to take this shot, maybe going to be a goal of the week, goal of the year. Let's see what it’s gonna be.’ But I just did it and worked perfectly.”

Cherundolo sounded like the leader of a legitimate trophy contender as he encapsulated his message to Palacios, the young Ecuadorian international left back who has shown both promise and patchiness in LA.

“I always tell players to try to play consistently well,” he said. “You don't need 10s; we also do not want 4s, if the scale is 1 to 10. Give me a 7 and an 8 every week, we’ll win a lot of games and have a lot of fun together.”

That word, and those aspirations, were on Tajouri-Shradi’s lips as well.

“This group, it’s something special this year. It's going to be a lot of fun,” he said. “We just have to focus and keep going this way. It's going to be tough games coming, a lot of games now. So we have just to keep this way and it’s gonna be a fun year for sure.”