The final derby of the regular season is out of the way. The Supporters' Shield is within reach. Just four home matches remain. And the capture of the Western Conference's top spot is just three points away.
The home stretch to LAFC's 2019 season starts in earnest on Sunday.
Coming to Banc of California Stadium for the first time this season is Minnesota United. In yet another of the strange nuances of MLS scheduling, LAFC will play Minnesota twice in one month after not facing the Loons during the first six months of the season.
Adrian Heath's side is in the midst of its best season in club history. The Loons are fresh off a midweek appearance in the U.S. Open Cup final - they fell 2-1 to Atlanta United. But just five points above the playoff line, Minnesota will be eager to prove its playoff bona fides. A win over the Western Conference's undisputed best would go a long way to solidify Minnesota's place in the table.
Here's a preview of LAFC vs. Minnesota United:
LAFC vs Minnesota United | Sept. 1 at 7:30pm PT
Where To Watch
TV: YouTube TV, KVMD
Radio: ESPNLA 710. KFWB 980
Minnesota United sits firmly in a pack of six teams fighting to stay above the Western Conference playoff line. The difference between the second spot and the eighth spot in the conference is just five points. With one or fewer goals conceded in five of its last six matches, Minnesota has been built on stout play in the back and grinding out results. Despite falling to Atlanta United in the Open Cup final earlier in the week, The Loons have put together a more than respectable 6-2-3 record over its last 11 matches.
What The Team Is Saying
Steven Beitashour on teams bringing their best each week against LAFC: "These points are important to them. But it doesn't change how every team when they come to play us, we kind of have a target on our backs. We've been doing it a majority of the season, so we're looking forward to the challenge. Obviously, playing at home and in front of our crowd means a lot to us."
Josh Pérez on what he expects from Minnesota: "There's going to be a lot of battles to be won. There's going to be a lot of energy coming from them to start the game. We're just going to have to be ready for it."
LAFC Projected Starting XI
(4-3-3): Tyler Miller; Jordan Harvey, Eddie Segura, Walker Zimmerman, Steven Beitashour; Eduard Atuesta, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Latif Blessing; Diego Rossi, Adama Diomande, Brian Rodríguez.
What To Watch For
How The West Was Won: Three points on Sunday clinches the top spot in the Western Conference for LAFC with six matches to play. Finishing atop the conference secures LAFC a bye in the first round of the playoffs and guarantees the road to MLS Cup in the West goes through Banc of California Stadium. It's also one step on the way to the Supporters' Shield trophy.
Speaking Of Supporters' Shield: LAFC's magic number in the race for the Shield is 10 - oddly enough, 10 points would also tie the best points total in a season. The Supporters' Shield has the added benefit of securing a spot in next season's Concacaf Champions League. The possible first trophy in Club history is a physical embodiment LAFC's exceptional play over a seven-month period. And it also guarantees that if LAFC reaches the MLS Cup final, it'll be played at Banc of California Stadium.
First Start For Brian Rodríguez?: If there was a silver lining to Carlos Vela's substitution due to injury against the Galaxy, it was the play of Brian Rodríguez. The young Designated Player showed no fear in a big moment. Rodríguez got on the ball often and was willing to go at his man in 1v1 situations. He showed an ability to work inside to create dangerous opportunities for himself and go around the outside to set up teammates. And he had a couple of strong deliveries from corner kicks. Not bad for a 19-year-old that's had just a few days with the league's best team. With Vela working back to full fitness after a minor hamstring injury, Rodríguez's first start appears likely and is much anticipated in what would be a dark moment for any other team.