The MLS season is a grind. It's eight months of regular season. And if you're lucky, a month of playoffs.
But ahead of the final home match of LAFC's inaugural regular season, it feels like we were celebrating the opening Banc of California Stadium with a victory over the Seattle Sounders just a short time ago.
Thankfully, LAFC is one of the lucky ones. With 56 points and two matches remaining, the Black & Gold are playoff bound. Whether or not they'll have a home match during that time is still up in the air though. Six points remain on offer for LAFC, starting with Sunday's match against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Let's have a look at the final regular season home match of 2018:
Where To Watch/Listen
LAFC vs Vancouver Whitecaps, October 21 at 2pm PT
TV: YouTube TV, UniMás 46
Radio: ESPNLA 710, KFWB 980
The Vancouver Whitecaps still have an outside chance of reaching the MLS Cup Playoffs, but right now those chances are on life support. The 'Caps went up 1-0 over Sporting KC in the first half of a midweek match only to crumble in the final 30 minutes. Vancouver not only lost the match 4-1, putting a serious dent in their playoff hopes, they also lost forward Kei Kamara after he was red carded following the final whistle.
What The Team Is Saying
Tyler Miller on staying focused to close the season: "For us, it's one game at a time. We know how difficult these games are. And on Sunday, it's our Fan Appreciation Day, so that's our main focus. We want to send out our Supporters with a strong result at home."
Bob Bradley on LAFC's need to control matches this time of year: "At the end of the year, games can open up. Certainly, the second half of Vancouver-Kansas City was wide open. For us, we've tried to find ways where we can go forward quickly, we create chances, but where we also understand how to control the transition."
LAFC Projected Starting XI
(4-2-3-1): Tyler Miller; Jordan Harvey, Walker Zimmerman, Danilo Silva, Steven Beitashour; Benny Feilhaber, Lee Nguyen; Diego Rossi, Carlos Vela, Aaron Kovar; Adama Diomande.
What To Watch For
Carlito's Way: Through 35 minutes against Houston, Carlos Vela was having an all-around bad day. His team was down 1-0, the match had to be suspended due to a weather delay, and Vela had given away possession too easily on many occasions. But as the teams returned to the pitch after nearly two hours of delay, Vela flipped the script. LAFC went on to score within ten minutes of the restart thanks to Vela earning and converting a penalty in the 44th minute. Vela's dominance continued in the second half as he assisted on two goals and finished a second of his own to help LAFC to a 4-2 win. It was the type of game you'd look for your superstar produce when the team seemed destined a rough night. Could an encore be in store for Sunday?
Playoff Positioning: Two matches remain in the regular season, and even with a victory, LAFC won't completely know its playoff seeding. Three points on Sunday would secure at least one home match in the playoffs for LAFC. The victory would also have LAFC halfway to its goal of a first-round bye in the playoffs - maximum points from LAFC's final two matches will guarantee one of the top two spots in the conference regardless of other results around the league.
No Kei?: Even if you were watching Vancouver's midweek match with Sporting KC, you probably missed it. Forward Kei Kamara was shown a red card after the final whistle for an altercation with an SKC player. As a result, the leading scorer for the Whitecaps is suspended for Sunday's match. It's definitely a blow for Vancouver, but LAFC can't celebrate just yet. Alphonso Davies, Yordy Reyna, and Kendall Watson will all be returning to the Whitecaps lineup this weekend after stints with their respective national teams.