Los Angeles, California — The first spot in the MLS Playoffs has been secured. With their hard-fought, two-goal victory last night, LAFC became the first team in the league to clinch a playoff berth. In addition to securing their place in the postseason, captain and MVP candidate Carlos Vela made more history.
Both teams entered last night boasting a three-match win streak and plenty of momentum. The first half was about as even as you could get. Both teams maintained their share of possession, both sides were able to find space with impressive build-up play and both failed to find the finishing product when in the final third. It wasn’t until the second half that fans were treated to the typical firework show that is an LAFC match.
Carlos Vela makes history, helps lead LAFC to playoff berth
LAFC defender Walker Zimmerman was the first to be sent off during the match. After picking up a yellow card in the first half, the defender received his second yellow in the 48th minute.
In fairness, with an attacker barreling down on goal, Zimmerman made the decision to commit a professional tackle, preventing a chance on goal. Even when down to 10 men, the LAFC mentality did not change as they continued to apply pressure by attacking. It was that pressure that helped LAFC find the first goal of the night.
Adama Diomande made an excellent run in the 62nd minute, finding captain Vela. With Vela set for a clear chance on goal, Real Salt Lake defender Aaron Herrera brought him down in the box. In addition to LAFC being awarded the penalty, Herrera received a straight red and was sent off.
With history on the line, Carlos Vela put a screamer top shelf, just under the bar for the goal, the lead and history. With the goal, Vela surpassed Sebastian Giovinco for most goal involvements in a single-season, giving him 39 combined goals and assists on the year.
RSL were able to create more chances throughout the second half. However, it wouldn’t be enough. Lee Nguyen provided the last bit of brilliance for the match in the 81st minute. Finding a streaking Diomande with perfect service, for the second goal of the night and a place in the playoffs.
— LAFC (@LAFC) August 18, 2019
Carlos Vela has been more than just the captain for LAFC.
Since his arrival, Vela has very much been the heart of LAFC. He is the face of the franchise and the one the fans hold in the highest regard. As far as first signings go, it is hard to imagine a more perfect marriage than that of Vela and the Los Angeles Football Club. While the entire season has been a road to several broken records for LAFC, last night was bit more special.
Sebastian Giovinco once held the record for most goal involvements in a single-season with 38. With his penalty last night, Vela took the top spot with 39 — 24 goals and 15 assists). It’s a record that shines light on just how good Vela is at getting the rest of the team involved.
While the offense may run through him, he makes sure it doesn’t come to a halt should he be missing his shooting boots. As legendary as his left foot is, it’s his vision and passing ability that make him invaluable to this squad. This may not be the last record Vela breaks this year, as he is now eight goals away from passing Josef Martinez for most goals in a season (31).
Place in the Postseason
The best thing about sports is how poetic they are. RSL were a team that LAFC completely dominated last year, only to watch that team come into The Banc and knock them out of the playoffs in the opening round. Fast forward to last night and LAFC become the first team in the MLS to clinch their spot in the postseason by beating said RSL.
With Real Salt Lake in the middle of a battle for their spot in the playoffs, it wouldn’t be shocking if they somehow met again down the road. For now, LAFC can rest easy knowing not only is their spot secured, but given the massive lead they hold, barring a complete collapse, they should coast into postseason with the number one seed.
— LAFC (@LAFC) August 18, 2019
Above the Frey
If you want a reminder of just how dominant LAFC have been this season, look no further than the MLS standings. LAFC are currently at the top of the Western Conference with a 16 point lead. For perspective, the gap between second place and last is 15 points. While they have officially clinched a spot in the playoffs, they have all but clinched their spot at the top of the West. However, with a 13 point lead in the race for the Supporter’s Shield it’s unlikely you’ll see LAFC pack it up anytime soon.
The Look Ahead
LAFC will host the San Jose Earthquakes in a mid-week match Wednesday night. With all eyes on next weekend’s derby match against the Galaxy — and with the playoffs secured — it could be a rotated squad. Plenty of fans are anxious for the debuts of new signings, including forward Brian Rodriguez and defender Diego Palacios.
However, with both players still in need of their visas, it’s likely neither will be available until the last couple weeks of the season — if we see them at all. With only nine games left in the regular season, the most important thing LAFC can do, is stay healthy.