LAFC, pursuing of perfection, nearly find it in rout of Vancouver Whitecaps

LOS ANGELES — Bob Bradley knows what he wants from his dominating side, has a picture of what it looks like in his head, and that ideal — as much as the trophies within his grasp — is LAFC's overarching aim.

They came close to achieving it during an electric 25-minute stretch to start the second half in Saturday night's 6-1 destruction of the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps, a performance that — atop so many like it — illuminated the gap between MLS's runaway Supporters' Shield leader and the rest of the pack.

“We have high standards for ourselves ...,” said midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye, whose brilliant strike less than a minute into the second half started the onslaught. “We're a very attacking team, and we want to be perfect in certain situations. But perfection is hard to get, and we're going to keep trying to push for that.

“Yeah, it's nice to score goals, but we still think that we can get better.”

They took 31 shots (to five for Vancouver), set a club record for goals, matched the club mark for margin of victory — set in the 5-0 rout over San Jose at the end of March — and could have, should have, scored more as they avenged a 1-0 mid-April loss as B.C. Place. Tristan Blackmon hit a crossbar, and Whitecaps goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau's nine saves included dazzling stops on Kaye and, in the final minute, from Carlos Vela's hat trick-seeking chip.

“Today was an example of the kind of football we want to play,” midfielder Lee Nguyen said. “In terms of controlling the game and keeping the [opponent] in their own half for the majority of the game and literally not giving them a chance to get out of their own half. And punishing them when we get our chances. This was a fun game to be a part of.”

LAFC, coming off a 5-1 midweek romp at Sporting Kansas City, pushed their lead in the Shield race to eight points, with a game in hand, over Philadelphia, and they're on pace to set league records for points, for goals and for victories in the post-shootout era.

They've scored at least four seven times, and their plus-34 goal differential, with 45 percent of the schedule remaining, is better than all but two full-season differentials in league history: The LA Galaxy's plus-41 in 1998 and Toronto FC's plus-37 two years ago.

At this pace, they'll finish at plus-61.

“I have these pictures of what really good teams look like, and I'm excited when I see things in our team that look like good teams,” Bradley said. “And then I'm pissed when I see things that don't look anything close. ... When we see football that has tempo, when we see timing, when we see a way of the ball moving quickly and creating advantages or reactions, we're excited. ...

“We try to keep building ideas into the team and keep trying to improve on things [that define] the best teams: when you see the execution when they have advantages, when you see the decision-making from start to finish in a game, when you see how quickly the best teams move up as a unit, so when they lose the ball they're already in position to suffocate the other team.”

They might have been at their best Saturday. They pinned the Whitecaps in their defensive third and dictated terms throughout, rallying from an early deficit to go ahead just before the break off Vela corner kicks, the first ricocheting off Vancouver midfielder Andy Rose and the second headed home by Adama Diomande.

Kaye then hit the upper-right corner to make it 3-1 after the break, Vela tallied from Eduard Atuesta's long ball in the 54th and on a rebound header in the 70th, and Diego Rossi volleyed home the rebound off the underside of the crossbar after Atuesta hit the right post in the 72nd.

Rose, who is Bradley's son-in-law, said the Whitecaps (4-8-8) were “embarrassed and disappointed” with their play in the second half. Captain Jon Erice called the half “our worst performance of the season.”

“We were dominated all game,” head coach Marc dos Santos said. “LAFC was much stronger, had better pressure, a lot of possession, grabbed us by the throat pretty much, and that's the reality of it. ...  We lost a game against a team that is, by far, from my opinion, the best team in the league.”

Vela's goals were his 18th and 19th, the assist his 12th. He's the lone candidate at the moment for the MVP honor.

“I think we are in a good moment,” he said. “We've only lost two games' that's a good record. I think we are doing really good things, but the important for us is, like, we want more. Because we know that if we don't win the MLS Cup, this is nothing.”


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