Training Report

Notes from Training | Matchday 24

First-place LAFC only has two days of calm after the storm that was Thursday night’s emotional derby win before heading to Houston to try and extend its record-setting run

04032024 LAFC training Bouanga blur

Moments after LAFC secured its third straight win over the Galaxy – becoming the first team in the series to win three straight regular-season games over its rival – LAFC defender Jesús Murillo and his teammates turned toward the Rose Bowl’s North End. The vast seating section there, filled with thousands of supporters clad in all black, had been as loud and passionate over the preceding two hours—pushing LAFC’s players toward a 2-1 win in the most anticipated and best-attended game in MLS this season— as it is in BMO Stadium’s North End during LAFC home games.

Murillo, having just survived his 14th El Trafico since joining the Black & Gold in 2020, stepped over the retaining wall behind the Rose Bowl’s north goal and strutted with his teammates toward the sea of black that quickly embraced them.

The scenes that followed represent the best of world football, and represent the reason LAFC was formed in the first place ten years ago—to create a lasting bond between the game and the people of Los Angeles.


Just 36 hours after the final whistle in the Rose Bowl, LAFC’s players and technical staff returned to the LAFC Performance Center, having already shifted their focus to Sunday’s road match against 7th-place Houston.

“It's an important MLS match, in-conference match, and three points on the line, just like there were on Thursday; that's how we treat it,” said LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo. “And obviously you look to the schedule and to see what's around the corner and you have Open Cup Wednesday and then Columbus [on Sat. July 13] and then Real Salt Lake [on Wed. Jul 17]. There's plenty of games and important games moving forward. Thinking game-to-game is really important without obviously losing sight of the long-term and freshness and health of the players. It's a tough task. We celebrated on Thursday night, recovered yesterday, and we're back in business today.”

“We had to play a very complete game for us to be able to advance to MLS Cup against Houston,” said LAFC captain Ilie Sánchez, referring to the Black & Gold’s 2-0 win in the 2023 Western Conference final seven months ago. “On top of that, they are home [on Sunday] and they always show their best version when they are down in Houston. Not just against LAFC but against any other opponent in this league.”


Among the many streaks of success LAFC is currently riding – including its club-record, 12-match unbeaten streak in all competitions – there’s Denis Bouanga’s ongoing perfection in penalty kicks. When the reigning Golden Boot winner beat former teammate John McCarthy from the spot on Thursday night, it marked the twelfth straight PK he’s converted since joining LAFC in the summer of 2022, including nine straight in MLS regular-season play. His club is undefeated in those nine matches.

(bold = MLS reg. season)

3/12/23 vs. NE (4-0 W)
7/8/23 vs. SJ (1-1 D)
8/2/23 vs. Monterrey at Rose Bowl (3-2 L) Leagues Cup
8/11/23 vs. Juarez (7-1 W) Leagues Cup
10/7/23 at ATX (4-2 W)
11/5/23 at VAN (1-0 W) MLS Cup Playoffs
3/23/24 vs. NSH (5-0 W)
4/6/24 vs. Galaxy (2-1 W)
4/20/24 vs. RBNY (2-2 D)
5/29/24 vs. MIN (2-0 W)
6/15/24 at ORL (3-1 W)

7/4/24 vs. Galaxy at Rose Bowl (2-1 W)

“Denis is all about mentality,” Sánchez said on Saturday. “Not just when he faces the penalty spot but heading into every single game. Tomorrow, you will see him again in the starting 11 and going at the Houston team with all the power and strength and ability that he has with the ball.

“When he's on the penalty spot, I try to do my part and protect him from distractions, but that just so I can feel good about myself because I know that he doesn't care, he's just focused on the goal, the ball, and the goalkeeper and he's gonna convert the PK. We’re so lucky to have him in this team.”

Where does Bouanga’s string of nine straight MLS PKs rank in MLS history? Earlier this season Philadelphia’s Daniel Gazdag converted his 21st consecutive penalty-kick attempt, extending his league record for consecutive PKs converted at the start of a career, and setting a new MLS mark for consecutive PKs conversions overall. (Both streaks ended later in that same game, when his 22nd attempt was saved by Orlando City’s Pedro Gallese.)


When Sánchez was asked on Saturday about the seven games that lie ahead in this congested July, and whether the team will adjust its lineups and prioritize some games over others, he replied in Spanish:

“No, this is LAFC. Here, we don't hold back anything. Every game is important for us, for the club, for the owners, for our fans. And that's what Steve has worked on. Steve is the one who decides and will decide at all times which players take the field and which ones stay on the bench. So from our point of view, it is a very comfortable position …

“In this club we have shown that better or worse we will always fight for each game and each competition. And it is with that mentality that we have been growing as a club and as a team in recent years.”


France, whose roster contains LAFC’s most recent DP signing, Olivier Giroud, and which was captained by LAFC goalie Hugo Lloris from 2012 through 2022, advanced past Portugal on penalty kicks Friday evening in Hamburg, earning a spot in the Euro 2024 semifinals, against Spain (Tues. July 12, 12:00 p.m. PT, FOX).

LAFC’s flight to Houston Saturday night landed just before LAFC winger Cristian Olivera and his Uruguay side kicked off against Brazil in the 2024 Copa América quarterfinal. Olivera and Uruguay advanced on penalties and will play in the semifinal against Colombia on Wed. July 10 (5:00 p.m. PT, FS1, TUDN, Univision). LAFC will kick off three hours later against New Mexico United in the quarterfinal round of the U.S. Open Cup [BUY TICKETS].

LAFC travels to face the Houston Dynamo, on Sunday, July 7, at Shell Energy Stadium The match kicks off at 3:30 p.m. PT (MLS Season Pass on Apple TV (now 50% off), 710 AM ESPN LA, ESPN LA app, 980 AM La Mera Mera).*

UPDATE as of 7/7 at 10 am PT: Due to forecasted inclement weather in the Houston area this evening, tonight’s kick-off time between Houston Dynamo FC and LAFC has been moved up to 3:30 p.m. PT/ 5:30 p.m CT/ 6:30 p.m. ET on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.

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