LAFC prepares to hit the road this week, traveling to face the Colorado Rapids in a Western Conference match at Dick's Sporting Goods Park looking to remain atop the Western Conference standings. The Black & Gold finished a 2-2 draw with Philadelphia on May 7 in their last MLS match, and advanced into the Round of 16 of the U.S. Open Cup on May 10 with a 2-0 win over Portland.
“It’s a short week so we’ve been recovering from our Cup game against Portland,” LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo said. “We are moving forward and looking forward to Colorado this weekend, who are playing [today], so it will be a short week of recovery for them as well.”
The Black & Gold have equaled the best start in Club history as they attempt to capture the 2022 Supporter’s Shield, which they won in 2019.
The Rapids head into Saturday with a 3-4-3 record (12 points) in MLS play and suffered a 2-1 loss on Thursday to Minnesota in a re-scheduled U.S. Open Cup match Round of 32 game. Colorado is currently in ninth place in the Western Conference standings and are coming off a 1-0 loss on the road to San Jose May 7 in their last MLS game.
LAFC used a hat trick from Carlos Vela in Week 1 to start the 2022 season off the right way against Colorado at Banc of California Stadium. LAFC has won two of the last three meetings with Colorado, however the Rapids smashed the Black & Gold in the final match of 2021, ending LAFC’s faint hopes for making the playoffs.
ADVANCING IN THE CUP
Goals from Cristian Arango and Mamadou Fall helped LAFC advance in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday, May 10 by defeating Portland 2-0. It was the third time the teams had met in the Open Cup, with LAFC now owning a 2-1 record in the tournament against the Timbers.
“We are ecstatic to be another round further in the Open Cup,” Cherundolo said. “Getting Portland this early in the competition was a tough job. That is a very good and tough team to beat, so we are quite happy with the results. Overall, I think we were satisfied with how we played. Our match plan was correct, and the guys implemented it well.”
Arango scored in the 32nd minute, and now has a team-high three goals in the Open Cup for LAFC this season. It was Fall who put the game out of reach in the 54th minute, scoring off a corner kick. It was the ninth goal off a set piece for LAFC this season.
“Coach Steve has always told me to play it smart and simple,” Fall said. “As long as I play it simple, everything will be fine and locked in. That is one way how he has been helping me develop this season.”
LAFC has now reached the Round of 16 in each of its three entries to the U.S. Open Cup. The club made the semifinals of the competition in 2018 and the quarterfinals in 2019. The draw for the next round of the Open Cup is Thursday, May 12 at 5:30 p.m. PT, but Cherundolo will probably not be glued to the television to find out who LAFC plays next.
“I’m in dad mode at that time,” Cherundolo said. “My girls will decide how my afternoon sets up. I know I will hear about it one way or another, but at that time I will probably be playing frisbee or soccer in the backyard.”
LAFC is now 9-1-2 in all competitions this season, including 6-0-2 at Banc of California Stadium and the rowdy and vocal crowd is a big reason why.
“It felt like an MLS game,” Cherundolo said about LAFC’s Tuesday night Open Cup victory. “It felt like a weekend, like a regular Saturday night at the Banc. It was an exciting game due to the presence of the fans and the atmosphere they brought. We give them a big thank you and I think they went home happy and so did we. If this is the new normal for the Open Cup, it is incredible.”
By advancing to the Round of 16 of the Open Cup, LAFC has guaranteed that they will now play eight games in the month of May. Since the May 7 tie vs. Philadelphia, the Black & Gold will have a match basically every three days through the end of the month.
“The schedule is really picking up now,” LAFC goalkeeper Max Crepeau said. “We have more volume this month, but we are approaching every game the same way – we want results and three points every time we step on the field. We are preparing and recovering and we will be ready.”
Cherundolo and LAFC know that the team’s depth will be tested in the next few weeks, and every one on the roster is going to be expected to step in and help out.
“We are in recovery mode right now,” Cherundolo said. “But we will keep preparing and we are going to field a team on Saturday that is going to be ready to pick up some points on the road.”
The heavy schedule is not something that is going to bother Crepeau, who earned another shutout on Tuesday against Portland.
“I feel fine,” Crepeau said. “There is no problem with so many games, I’m only 28! We have fantastic organization, and a lot of people here are working toward the same goal and approaching every game as it was a final. There is always the team behind the team that makes sure we are always 100 percent and doing well.”
CHIQUI ON POINT
LAFC defender Diego “Chiqui” Palacios has enjoyed a breakout season so far for LAFC, quickly earning a reputation as one of the most talented left backs in MLS and proving to be a terror for opposing teams as he has already recorded a career-high two assists in the first eight games of the season.
“Chiqui has been really good,” Crepeau said. “The quality on the ball that he gives us on the left side of the field – you see that he can get out of a tight situation and pressure. And the quality of his left foot in crossing, he is just picking up so much. He is a tremendous young player who wants to learn and we appreciate that. He can step up in tight moments and tight situations. He has been a pleasure to play with and to get to know him – and there is more exciting stuff coming from him.”
Palacios was honored as the Young Player Of The Tournament for the 2020 Concacaf Champions League, and was a member of the Ecuador National Team that has qualified for the 2022 World Cup.
MAX AND THE 3252
In just a short period of time, LAFC goalkeeper Max Crepeau has quickly become a fan favorite in Los Angeles – and a true darling of the 3252 Supporter’s Group in the North End.
“The connection I have with the fans, it really started right off the bat,” Crepeau said. “I was receiving messages of support from the supporters before I even got here – they have been so welcoming.”
Of course, Crepeau has given the fans a lot to cheer for already on the field, recording four shutouts and coming up with numerous big saves when called upon. But his affinity for the supporters comes from an even deeper place. Growing up in Montreal, Crepeau was a member of the Montreal Impact Ultras Supporter’s group, sometimes playing a match for the Impact’s Academy team before climbing into the terraces to chant with the rest of the fans.
“I can really relate to that passion and intensity of winning they bring,” Crepeau said. “I think it is important for a player to understand what it means to the Supporters and just exactly it means for them to support us, to give us their all. There are going to be some good days and some not good days on the field during the year – but the Supporter’s want to see that the effort has to be there, that we are going to give it our all and leave it on the field.”
After the win on May 10 vs. Portland, the 3252 continued to show Crepeau their affection, serenading him with a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ to help him celebrate his 28th birthday.
LAFC defender Franco Escobar suffered a left calf injury vs. Portland and is questionable for Saturday’s matchup in Colorado. Escobar has appeared in just four MLS games this year after injuring his right calf earlier in the season.
“Franco picked up a small knock vs. Portland and we are still assessing if he will be available,” Cherundolo said.
Cherundolo did give some hopeful news on several of the other players who are still working their way back from injury, including Jesus Murillo (Left hamstring), Doneil Henry (Left hamstring) and Eddie Segura (Right knee).
“We have some players that are starting to come back from injury,” Cherundolo said. “I am hoping that next week we should be able to start getting some guys back.”