Warshaw: LAFC's quality should be the standard for MLS, not the outlier

It should be considered the standard, not the outlier.

LAFC have won their last two matches by a combined 11-2. Their goal differential in the last two games would be, on its own, second-best in the league for the season so far. (Their actual GD is a gaudy +34.) They have won by three or more goals in seven of their 19 games this year. They look like the Harlem Globetrotters playing against Matt Doyle, Andrew Wiebe and Ben Baer.

The Black & Gold are on pace for most points in a season, most goals scored, the best goal differential and just about every other record you could ponder.

They also – and this is just as important – play some of the most electric, entertaining soccer the league has ever seen. They don’t just win, they play in a way that feeds the soul.

I’m a romantic about the game, and perhaps I’m channeling my inner Bob Bradley in this comment, but this feels like an important note to be made…

LAFC should be the standard of soccer we expect from teams around the country, not a shooting star that we watch and admire as exceptional. It's what we should expect from this sport.

Warshaw: LAFC's quality should be the standard for MLS, not the outlier -,-LAFC-first-practice.jpg

Bob Bradley addresses his squad during their first preseason | LAFC

The way they move as a group, the intensity they bring to every moment, the way they know what they are supposed to do in every situation on the field. Nothing they do happens by accident. Every Carlos Vela bender to the far corner, every Diego Rossi breakaway, every Latif Blessing tackle comes after hours of rehearsal on the training field.

LAFC don’t have the most talent in MLS; they have the best process. All of the ideas that coaches profess to their players or list at some coaching symposium, LAFC do on a daily basis. They…

  • Know what they are going to do with the ball before they get the ball
  • Shape their bodies before they receive a pass
  • Read their teammates to understand where to move next
  • Understand the moments for killer passes and safe passes
  • Go for their moments of magic in the right zones on the field
  • React immediately after every turnover
  • Press as a group
  • Vary their defensive approaches to keep opponents guessing

To steal Bradley’s line... that’s football. That’s the sport. That’s what’s possible.

There’s an elephant in the room here that needs to be addressed. Fans of every other team around the league are probably seething as they read this… but what about the buckets of money they spent?!! Look at all of the talent that they have!

Talent helps. Carlos Vela helps, and Carlos Vela probably wouldn’t have signed anywhere other than LAFC. Vela makes all of this easier. That’s a fair point. But it’s a mistake to think that LAFC is an accumulation of big-money, in-demand commodities.

Who was Latif Blessing before he got to LAFC? Mark-Anthony Kaye? Tyler Miller? Christian Ramirez? Jordan Harvey? Good professionals, for sure, but elite talent? Nah. Even Rossi, Eduard Atuesta, and Eddie Segura were cheap, and accessible to most, in MLSx.0 terms. They’ve become stars because of the team.

LAFC are pounding everyone because they have clear ideas and high standards.

I don’t think it’s presumptuous to suggest that we should expect those qualities from every team, coach, and player across the country. Is it easy? Of course not. But just as Roger Bannister showed everyone that a four-minute mile was possible and countless people have done it since, we should view LAFC as breaking down the wall for what’s expected on an MLS field.

Let’s not let this opportunity go to waste. Admire the greatness, but don’t mistake their process for extraordinary. It’s within reach for everyone, and it should be the bar.