After back-to-back matches on the East Coast, LAFC returns to Banc of California Stadium on Saturday to face Toronto FC.
In addition to returning to Los Angeles, the Black & Gold are looking to return to winning ways. It's been four matches without a win, LAFC's longest such streak of the 2019 season. Despite remaining perked atop the MLS table during that time, the team and fans are eager to earn three points once more.
And since we've got what seems like a theme going with returns, Saturday could also be the return of the first captain in LAFC, as Laurent Ciman is likely to travel with Toronto for the match.
The center back left LAFC and MLS last August to join Dijon of France's Ligue 1 but returned to MLS less than six months later when he joined TFC before the start of the 2019 season. LAFC faced its former captain in a friendly to start the 2019 preseason but this would be the first time a former LAFC player faces the Black & Gold in a competitive match.
Let's take a look at LAFC's return to Banc of California Stadium to face Toronto FC:
LAFC vs Toronto FC | Sept. 21 at 7:30pm PT
Where To Watch
TV: YouTube TV, KVMD
Radio: ESPNLA 710, KFWB 980
Toronto FC enters Saturday's match unbeaten in their last seven. Greg Vanney's team went from an outsider looking in at the Eastern Conference playoff picture to an almost sure thing with the recent run of form. Designated Player Alejandro Pozuelo leads the team in both goals and assists this season. He's scored in the team's last two matches - a 1-1 draw at NYCFC and a 3-2 win at home to Colorado.
What The Team Is Saying
Steve Beitashour on the difference makers in Toronto FC's team: "They're a good team. I think if you look at every position, they've got a really solid, quality player that is a gamechanger. [Alejandro] Pozeulo coming in really helps their team, he sweeps the ball left and right, he's able to dribble, and finish with either foot. When you have a player like Michael [Bradley] that covers so much ground and really just cleans up any mess. When they lose the ball, he's always there to fix any problems for. And Jozy [Altidore], everybody knows Jozy. He's a world-class striker."
Bob Bradley on what makes Toronto FC dangerous: "Toronto is still one of the best passing teams in the league. They're a team that still finds a good rhythm, plays through the lines, and moves the ball in a really good way. For me, that's the way they still create against most teams. The ball moves quickly, the ball moves in the right spots at the right time. Our ability to put enough pressure on the player on the ball and close down some of the spaces, I think those are important for us."
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, Carlos Vela.
What To Watch For
Shutting Teams Down: LAFC leads MLS with the fewest goals conceded in 2019 (33) but has hit a rough patch as of late. In the last 10 matches, LAFC has conceded 16 times. Do the math, that's about half of all the goals the Black & Gold have given up this season. While LAFC hasn't given up more shots than usual, the quality of chances have been bigger for opponents and they've punished LAFC for it. Bob Bradley talked this week about sharpening up some of the little details from front to back. That means closing down opponents quicker, getting pressure to the ball in the right ways, and stepping up as a team. With four matches remaining in the season, LAFC needs to reinforce some of its good habits without the ball and find a way to maintain focus for a full 90 minutes.
Vela's Pursuit Of History: Carlos Vela missed two matches after picking up a minor hamstring injury in the 3-3 draw with the Galaxy. He returned to the starting XI in the match at Philadelphia and returned to the scoresheet. The LAFC captain has 28 goals in 2019, only one other player in MLS history has reached that total, and has scored in four consecutive matches. He needs three goals in the last four matches to tie the single-season mark held by Atlanta United's Josef Martinez from 2018.
Shield Watch: LAFC has been on Supporters' Shield watch since last week. After picking up a point against the Philadelphia Union last week, LAFC needs a win against Toronto FC on Saturday and an NYCFC draw or loss in Dallas on Sunday to secure the Supporters' Shield. The trophy for the best team over the course of the MLS regular season, the Supporters' Shield would be LAFC's first trophy in Club history and secure home-field advantage through MLS Cup. The winner of the Supporters' Shield is also guaranteed a place in next season's Concacaf Champions League, LAFC already secured their spot via clinching the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference for 2019.