LAFC win MLS Supporter’s Shield with victory over Houston

LAFC Supporter's Shield
LOS ANGELES, CA — SEPTEMBER 25: Eduard Atuesta #20 of Los Angeles FC celebrates his goal during Los Angeles FC's MLS match against Houston Dynamo at the Banc of California Stadium on September 25, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles FC won the match 3-1 (Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images).

Editorial — Not even two years removed from their first match in the MLS, LAFC have won their first trophy. LAFC won the 2019 Supporter’s Shield! (Such occasion grants the use of my first exclamation point).

Despite the recent rough patch, the black and gold have been dominant throughout the season. Last night’s match against the Houston Dynamo was the culmination of that fact.

LAFC Win Supporter’s Shield, Regain Confidence at Home Ahead of MLS Playoffs

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about LAFC needing just one win, one convincing performance going into the postseason. Last night was the big one. While the analysis of last night’s match is about as relevant as the recent rough patch, there are a few things worth highlighting. In a first half that ended level at one, after a Carlos Vela penalty conversion — and a rough Tyler Miller own goal — LA returned from the break to do what they do best: dominate.

Head coach Bob Bradley subbed Mark-Anthony Kaye in at the 58th minute mark. In addition to possession increasing, the attack began to find a bit more rhythm. Space was easier to create and chances came more often.

Diego Rossi took the lead with a header in the 70th minute. However, the most incredible goal of the night came in the 82nd minute. Standing over a free kick just a foot outside the box, Eduard Atuesta treated the 3252 to some magic on an already historic night. The only sight more impressive than that on the night, was that of LAFC lifting their first trophy.

Dominance Personified

The Supporter’s Shield, for those who may not know, is the trophy awarded to the team who finishes with the most points in the league. A symbol for consistency throughout an entire season, navigating all the highs, the lows, the international breaks and the rough spells. In addition, for 2019, it comes with rewards in itself. With the trophy comes home-field for the entirety of the postseason. Meaning, should LAFC reach the MLS Finals, they will defend The Banc with it all on the line. In addition, LAFC have also clinched a berth in the 2020 CONCACAF Champion’s League. That’s another first for the two year old club.

LAFC may have dominated the mainstream media throughout this season, but it’s because of their domination on the pitch. Their worst run all season was a five game stretch, in which they lost once. It was a stretch where they scored seven goals, against teams who are top seeds heading into the playoffs. A home record of 12-1-3, most goals scored with 81 and least goals allowed, 35, LA have been the standard.

Eduard Atuesta

This is my second time giving Atuesta his own section, maybe even a third time? It’s still not enough. While Carlos Vela may be the captain, undisputed leader of the team and surefire MVP for this season, Atuesta is the heart. No hyperbole, I can honestly say he is the closest thing to Mesut Ozil the MLS has seen. While he may only have 10 assists, it’s the manner in which he pulls the strings of the attack that impresses.

Pick any of the 28 matches he has played in and you’ll find dozens of perfectly placed balls that either set up a goal, resulted in a goal or led to a chance that likely should have been a goal. The ease at which he plays, the comfort he has on the ball is rarely seen in any league. His third goal of the season, contender for Goal of the Year, was another display of his brilliance. Much like the former Atlanta United midfielder Miguel Almiron, Atuesta could find himself the target of teams oversees soon — if he isn’t already.

Historic Night in LA

A quick Twitter search of ‘LAFC’ would send you down a euphoric rabbit hole of pure elation, joy and sense of accomplishment. It’s been stated plenty of times, LAFC isn’t just a club in a city; it is the club of a city. That was again apparent last night as not just the players, but those among The 3252 got to lift the first piece of silverware in club history. The most refreshing sight of the night had to be the amount of joy the players had. For a team that has been so consistent in their goal of MLS Cup or nothing, it was nice to see them let loose and celebrate in deserving fashion.

In addition to beer showers in the stands, the players enjoyed champaign showers in the locker room, with chants of “Campeones” echoing the halls. They can now rest easy knowing they have put themselves in the best position possible heading into the postseason. While the objective on the season is still MLS Cup, it’s important to enjoy the moment. You never get another first, and for a team this young and talented, there will be more on the horizon.

A short turnaround means most of the regulars will almost surely be rested. Records may be in reach, but health preparing for the postseason will likely take priority. This will be LAFC’s final road trip, before playing host the remainder of their 2019 campaign. Defending The Banc has never been more important than it will be in a few weeks time, however with a shield in hand, it should be a little easier.

 

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