Anytime you're talking a hundred of something in MLS, it's a big deal.
Thanks to a 6-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night, LAFC became the quickest team to 100 points in the post-shootout era of MLS.
It took LAFC just 53 matches to accomplish the feat. To put that in perspective, the previous holder of the distinction Atlanta United needed 57 matches to reach the century mark.
LAFC's 100 points since its arrival in MLS in 2018 is the most of any team in the one and a half seasons since - Atlanta United and the New York Red Bulls are both sitting on 98 points since the start of last season, they play each other on Sunday. After their 6-1 margin of victory, LAFC's +34 goal differential through 19 matches is better than all but two all-time season marks - 2017 Toronto FC (37) and 1998 Galaxy (41). The six goals LAFC put past Vancouver are the most its scored in one match in Club history, and, furthermore, now with 50 goals scored so far this season, LAFC is on pace to shatter the previous record for goals in a season with 89.
But the bigger picture remains the same. Records don't look as good in a trophy case as silverware. LAFC continues to make history but Bob Bradley made it known stats interest him very little in his postmatch press conference.
In the end, it's about putting together something on the pitch that resembles the best football in the world and trophies. I'd argue, LAFC has the inside track on both those goals. In light of the 6-1 demolishing of Vancouver, at times the Black & Gold grasped the former. The latter remains just out of reach... for now.
Here are the takeaways from LAFC's 6-1 win over the Whitecaps:
Pablo Sisniega will want that one back. Just five minutes into the match, the goalkeeper had his first misstep in Black & Gold.
In a moment of indecision and miscommunication, Sisniega failed to deal with what initially looked like a fairly routine long ball from Vancouver. In the grand scheme of things, the mistake meant very little. But it sticks out as really the first moment of question for the young goalkeeper.
Up to this point, Sisniega has been simply phenomenal. His shot-stopping in nearly every match since he took the role between the posts with Tyler Miller away at the Gold Cup has either put matches to bed for LAFC (Real Salt Lake and San Jose in the Open Cup) or given his team the chance to win (Sporting KC). He'd been so good, we all kind of wondered when he'd finally look vulnerable.
But in terms of mistakes, it's not fun to watch the replay, though it's one you can probably live with. Sisniega had to command a rotated backline for the match and had a moment of indecision with a player, Dejan Jaković, that had been away on loan for a time when the goalkeeper first stepped into the starting lineup. And after the incident, Sisniega seemed to brush the error off without any ill effects. He made two key saves before all was said and done.
So, not his finest moment. But not something that he can't recover from when you consider how good he's been at the biggest thing you ask of your keeper: stopping shots.
A Little Tactics
It was a 6-1 win, so I'm not going to dwell on what Vancouver was trying to do in the match. Clearly, it wasn't all that effective. But it was somewhat interesting.
Marc Dos Santos initially set his team up in a 5-3-2. Usually, with five defenders, you consider the two outside players to be wingbacks, but Vancouver was so narrow in its setup. Rarely did the five defenders extend past the width of the penalty area. Dos Santos is well-aware of the way LAFC likes to exploit teams with through balls from central areas and he basically clogged those lanes as best he could with defenders. It also gave him the opportunity to use his outside midfielders in conjunction with the outside defenders to double the likes of Diego Rossi and Carlos Vela.
In terms of what Vancouver wanted to do with the ball, they wanted no part of LAFC's counterpress. The Whitecaps' pattern of play was often one short pass preceding a direct ball searching for a runner behind the LAFC backline.
Why even risk one pass? It was an attempt to freeze LAFC by luring its counterpress and then going right at a seemingly unbalanced LAFC backline.
It was a tactic that lucked Vancouver into the opening goal but was ultimately unsuccessful as LAFC found ways to control the match and stay close to Vancouver's attackers.
A Set Piece Or Two Will Do
Got a team bunkered in their own end and unwilling to budge? A set piece goal, or two, is just what you need.
LAFC was probing. They had a decent tempo, although the number of crosses the Black & Gold launched at Vancouver's 5-man backline wasn't necessarily creating the quality of chances you'd like to see. But when you move the ball quickly and force the issue a bit, usually you can pick up a couple of set-piece opportunities.
Tristan Blackmon sent a warning shot off the crossbar from a corner kick just minutes before LAFC cracked the Vancouver defense. It made you wonder if maybe it was going to be one of those days. But it was just a precursor. Carlos Vela's deliveries from the right corner continued to trouble the Whitecaps, forcing an own goal to bring LAFC level. Just over five minutes later, LAFC was ahead with a pinpoint corner kick to the back post for Adama Diomande to nod home.
Sometimes you just got to have those set-piece rewards to open a team up. And from there, LAFC cranked up the pressure, finding more space and, ultimately, a lot more goals.
Prior to the start or the season, Mark-Anthony Kaye told me that to improve as a player he needed to boss matches from midfield. I like to think that looks exactly like this:
Now, that's a finish.
There's a lot to love from this play. Kaye is fully aware of the space he's in before receiving the ball. Once he's turned, he drives right at the heart of Vancouver's defense. He could have driven straight down the half space but by moving central he opens up numerous options going forward and the Whitecaps defenders have to respect the runners ahead as a result. So when Adama Diomande breaks, Doneil Henry has no choice but to go with him. Kaye knows where the pressure is behind him, so even though the window to get the ball to Dio is closing, a new window opens with the run and Kaye can't turn down that shot at the top of the penalty area.
He had two long-range efforts that narrowly missed in the first half. Kaye wouldn't miss a third, smashing his shot off the crossbar and in. It was easily the best of the goals on Saturday.
My notebook has a ton of stuff in it from this match. LAFC did score six times. Whittling things down to five takeaways gets tough on a night like this.
So I'll just give you some quick hits to finish this one out:
Mo' Of That - Mohamed El-Munir was my standout performer tonight. He was energetic, involved, and had fantastic reactions recovering the ball tonight. It was easily his best match in Black & Gold.
Atuesta To Vela - The best combo in MLS strikes again. Vela gets a little luck with the deflection - although we all know he was curling that shot into the top corner - but the pass out to Carlos Vela from Eduard Atuesta is the pièce de résistance in this sequence. Atuesta hits the pass from just outside his own penalty area about 50 yards, and it's so delicate Vela just has to caress it down into his own path.
Remind me again why Atuesta isn't going to the MLS All-Star Game?
Eddie Gets A Break - Before he was subbed in the 74th minute, Eddie Segura had played every minute of every MLS match for LAFC. MLS failed to have him on the initial MLS All-Star ballot and he's a defender, so I doubt this will happen, but he should be running away with the Newcomer of the Year Award. When you consider the impact he's had on LAFC's league-best defense with just 17 goals conceded through 19 matches, he has to be in the conversation.
Getting It From Both Sides - Diego Rossi grabbed another goal, his third in the last four MLS matches. He's now tied for third in MLS scoring. It's not just the goals for Rossi as of late. He's been a nuisance and cranked up his activity as of late. He's a threat vertically with his hard runs and has also been able to trouble defenses by coming inside and linking with either the center forward or an advanced midfielder.
Top Of The Charts - Two goals and an assist against Vancouver, Carlos Vela sits alone atop both categories in MLS. Vela has 19 goals and 12 assists in 19 matches this season. The record for combined goals and assists is 38. Vela is just seven away from tying the mark with 15 matches to play. At this pace, the record for goals in a season is very much in danger as well.
Just start engraving the MVP trophy already.