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LAFC heads north to take on Vancouver Whitecaps

LOS ANGELES — LAFC hits the road again to face off against the Vancouver Whitecaps this week, meeting a familiar face in opposing head coach Marc Dos Santos. Before taking the helm in Vancouver, Dos Santos served as an assistant to LAFC head coach Bob Bradley, helping to form the team’s success in its opening Major League Soccer season.

“Marc is an excellent coach and a great guy,” Bradley said. “The start of the season has been difficult, but he’s been through tough situations when he coached with different teams, so I have confidence that he’ll continue to push to get it right.”

The two teams met in the preseason, with LAFC taking away a 1-0 win off of a solo Vela goal. However, the preseason isn’t always a firm predictor of what is to come — for instance, the club lost to Real Salt Lake in the preseason, then flipped the script for a win on the road in their regular-season matchup. 

LAFC is coming off its hottest streak in the club’s short history, looking at a 6-1-0 undefeated record in the first two months of the regular season. The team is leading the league in almost every offensive category. It leads MLS with 21 goals scored this season and boasts the best goal differential (+16) in the league, with the closest second being Seattle’s +9 goal differential. Captain Carlos Vela is also the league leader in both goals and assists, with eight and five respectively.

“By being there, that’s the club in MLS that does everything right,” Dos Santos said. “I was able to be there that expansion year to see everything in the growth… It’s the reality. We can’t be here lying. It’s a club that’s doing everything right. That’s the example. That’s the standard.” 

That hot streak doesn’t mean any victory can be taken for granted. LAFC has shown weaknesses in its game throughout the season, almost allowing an equalizer to force a draw at home last weekend before Vela slotted in a brace in the final minutes of the game. Although the one-two punch of Vela and Diego Rossi has proven lethal thus far — Rossi is tied for second in the league with six goals on the season — it must be assumed that this streak won’t last forever.

Vancouver has started slow this season, going 0-2-4, and it will be hungry to notch its first win of the season over the leader of the Western Conference and MLS. The Whitecaps have struggled to provide an offensive threat so far — notching five goals from five different players over six games — but their strength comes from the backline, which has only allowed 10 goals this season.

This means that Vancouver stays in the game longer than many other teams. Despite ranking third-to-last in the Western Conference, the Whitecaps have only lost one game by a margin larger than one goal this season — a 2-0 loss to the Galaxy — and they’ve proven their ability to grind to a scoreless draw with offensively strong teams, such as Seattle. If the Whitecaps could have their way, the team would hold down the fort on the backline and strike LAFC in key counterattack opportunities hoping to catch the LAFC defense sleeping.

That could be a difficult feat, as Tyler Miller proved last weekend with his ability to pull out high-flying acrobatics to save goals even after dry spells along the backline. For LAFC, the name of the game will be to prevent Vancouver from dominating the pace. If the club can ignite its offense early, it could be an easy road trip for LAFC to continue its undefeated streak.

Injury report:

  • OUT: Forward Adama Diomande (hamstring injury), forward Rodolfo Zelaya (right soleus injury) and midfielder Andre Horta (right quad strain)
  • QUESTIONABLE: Midfielder Lee Nguyen (right soleus strain) and midfielder Alejandro Guido (right quad strain)

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