Results across MLS on the weekend of October 14 ensured LAFC a top-four finish in the Western Conference, and home-field advantage in its first-round, best-of-three series in the MLS Cup playoffs, which begin later this month.
The team facing the defending champions in that opening round will be determined during a frantic Decision Day, on October 21, when a 14-game schedule will finalize the MLS Cup playoff bracket, including the three remaining playoff spots in the Western Conference. Although LAFC and its Decision Day opponent, Vancouver, are already in, their playoff seeding will be up for grabs when they face off at BC Place on Saturday.
During the two-week break before that game, four members of the Black & Gold have traveled abroad to compete for their home countries’ national teams. LAFC’s starting goalkeeper, Max Crepeau, did not play in Canada’s loss to Japan in a friendly on October 13, but three of his club teammates have been kept busy.
The strong form Cristian Olivera has shown during his two months in Los Angeles helped him earn a place on Uruguay’s senior roster for 2026 World Cup qualifying. On October 12, the 21-year-old Olivera came on at halftime against CONMEBOL power Colombia, with Uruguay trailing 1-0. He turned in his usual action-packed shift in helping Uruguay salvage a 2-2 draw in Barranquilla, Colombia.
Olivera did not play in Uruguay’s 2-0 victory over Brazil the following Tuesday, which marked Brazil’s first qualifying defeat since 2015.
LAFC defender Denil Maldonado played all 180 minutes for Honduras in its two-leg matchup with Cuba in the group stage of Concacaf Nations League. The 25-year-old was on the field for the entirety of Honduras’ 0-0 draw with Cuba on October 12 in the Dominican Republic. After just two days’ rest, Maldonado returned to his hometown of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and scored the opening goal on a running header in the ninth minute of Honduras’ 4-0 win.
Up next for Honduras is a two-leg matchup with Mexico in mid-November, in the Nations League quarterfinals. Those two fixtures will be played after LAFC’s first-round series in the MLS Cup playoffs, and before the Western Conference semifinal.
LAFC forward Stipe Biuk appeared in two matches for Croatia’s U21 side during UEFA European U21 Championship qualifying. On October 13, the 20-year-old Biuk, who has scored three goals for LAFC in 2023, played the final 20 minutes of Croatia’s 2-2 draw with Greece, in Tripoli. Four days later Biuk played the first 70 minutes of his team’s 2-0 home win over Belarus.
Still ahead for Biuk and his U21 teammates: a rematch with Belarus that’s scheduled for November 20, in Armenia. That game will also fall in the playoff window that MLS has scheduled so that international players can compete worldwide and then return to help their clubs chase the MLS Cup.
La Botte De Bouanga À Perdre (Bouanga’s Boot To Lose)
Denis Bouanga’s two goals against Austin FC on October 7 gave him a three-goal lead in the MLS Golden Boot race. The performance also marked Bouanga’s ninth multi-goal game of the season, across all competitions. The five MLS games in which he’s scored at least two goals are the second-most in a single season in LAFC history, behind Carlos Vela’s seven in 2019.
After being named MLS Player of the Matchday on October 5 – and aside from having one of the Top 20 bestselling jerseys in MLS this year, stealing the show at the MLS All-Stars Skills Challenge over the summer, and winning CCL Golden Boot – Bouanga remains a factor in the MLS MVP conversation, which appears to be a three-man race involving St. Louis City SC goalkeeper Roman Burki (40 goals conceded in 32 starts) and FC Cincinnati’s Luciano Acosta (16 goals scored, 13 assists).
Acosta would need a hat trick against Atlanta on Saturday in order to win the Boot (based on the award’s assists tiebreaker). Even if Acosta scores three goals, he can only overtake Bouanga if Bouanga is held scoreless in Vancouver. Bouanga has performed well against the playoff-bound Whitecaps this season, recording three goals and two assists in three games against LAFC’s Western Conference rival (across MLS and Concacaf Champions League play).
As for his ability to finish strong, let’s not forget what Bouanga did last October, when, like this year, LAFC’s final regular-season game was played in the Pacific Northwest.
LAFC returns to action on Decision Day, Saturday, October 21, as it closes out the 2023 regular season against the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place. The match will kick off at 6:00 p.m. PT and will be broadcast on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV, 710 AM ESPN Los Angeles and 980 AM La Mera Mera.