LAFC remain on record-setting Shield pace despite “target on our back”

Consider LAFC’s 5-0 win over Charlotte FC Saturday night at Banc of California Stadium another statement of intent from the Supporters’ Shield leaders.

It was a match that was scoreless at halftime, with LAFC scoring five times after the break, courtesy of five different scorers. 

The Black and Gold are six points clear of Austin FC atop the Western Conference and lead the Shield race by the same margin over Austin and the Philadelphia Union. LAFC, which average 2.25 points per game, also have a game in hand on both clubs. 

The victory was LAFC’s sixth in a row and came without summertime signings Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini, both rested ahead of the club’s busy week, which includes a Tuesday home tilt against D.C. United (10:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+) and a trip up the coast to take on the San Jose Earthquakes Saturday night (10:00 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+).

“Six-game win streak we have a target on our back,” midfielder Kellyn Acosta said. “You have to bring it each and every game because teams are coming. I think for our standpoint, having that competitive nature, that competitive drive for all of us. We know that the little details go a long way and now it's just treating every game like a final. We’re getting closer and closer to our goal, holding up Supporters’ Shield and onto the playoffs, but you have to take it game by game, and we all know that.”

The challenge LAFC faced Saturday night was similar to one they’ve faced throughout the season — an opponent looking to bunker defensively and look for counterattacking possibilities. 

It’s that familiarity that brought about a calm halftime team talk with the understanding once the first goal comes, the levy would break.

“I think teams come out and try to play counterattack and look for an opportunity in that sense against us, but second half is much more complicated for them with the players that we have, the intensity and the subs we have,” said defender Jesus Murillo, who opened the scoring in the 49th minute. “I think I can compare it to an avalanche. They won't hold it. We’ve got a strong team and there's no stopping.”

Jose Cifuentes struck 10 minutes later, Carlos Vela and Cristian Arango scored three minutes apart and an Anton Walkes own goal in stoppage time capped the scoring. 

“The end result was great, obviously the first half could have been a lot sharper but I think the second half we turned it on,” Acosta said. “We were persistent and clinical in front of the goal, I think to showcase our depth and our talent on our team with five different goal scorers so for us, I think it was a good result, something we can build on and looking forward to Tuesday.”

While LAFC are on a record-setting pace, Acosta believes there’s still another gear or two left. 

“I think for us to take it to the next level we need to have a more complete game from start to finish,” he said. 

That’s downright scary for the rest of MLS.