Six points remain on offer for LAFC in its inaugural season. Six points that could mean the difference between the top spot in the Western Conference and the risk of having to play a knockout match in the first round of the playoffs.
To earn those six points, LAFC will first have to start by contending with the Vancouver Whitecaps. The Canadian squad arrives at Banc of California Stadium with its own playoff hopes on life support.
It's the final regular season home match for LAFC, here's the Toyota Keys to the Match for the Black & Gold:
Be Alert On Set Pieces
There was a bit of good news for LAFC a couple of days before this match. Vancouver Whitecaps leading scorer Kei Kamara had his appeal of a red card from a midweek match with Sporting KC denied. The big target man will be suspended for this contest. But even without Kamara, the 'Caps can be dangerous from set pieces.
With big bodies like Kendall Waston and José Aja coming forward from the back on set pieces, LAFC will have to be on high alert. That means being diligent in your assignments on corner kicks and free kicks, but it also means being conscious of the fouls conceded in the defensive third.
The loss of Kamara will hurt Vancouver's options in the run of play but they'd still like their chances from dead-ball opportunities. LAFC can't switch off even when the ball goes out of play.
Recover To Create
Vancouver's game plan on the road is no secret to teams. The Whitecaps will drop deep to constrict space close to their own goal. They're happy to let teams play in front of them and hold a bulk of the possession. And when the ball does turn over, they'll try to look to take advantage of the spaces in behind the opposition as quickly as possible.
But in those transition moments, teams can be their most susceptible. LAFC should make it a goal to be on the ball quickly whenever possession is lost. This takes a full effort from the entire team. As the man closest to the ball steps, his teammates will need to follow the lead to keep the pressure on. The more LAFC can win the ball back with Vancouver moving out of position, the more likely they'll find space to work towards goal.
One Match At A Time
At training this week, goalkeeper Tyler Miller set the tone for his team.
"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," Miller said. "We want to send out our Supporters with a strong result at home."
That needs to be the mentality from the opening whistle. The final match of the season at Sporting KC is likely to have huge implications on the race for a bye in the first round of the playoffs and possibly even the conference's top spot, but it all starts with three points on Sunday. LAFC knows that earning that bye is in their own hands if they take the remaining six points. The focus will need to be squarely on taking care of business in the final home match first.