It's the business end of the MLS season. And there are trophies to be won.
Three matches remain in LAFC's 2019 season. In the midst of a five-match winless run, the Black & Gold are sputtering as of late. Especially, when you consider the torrid pace they were setting heading into the season's final month. But despite the struggles, there are still two items to consider - even if you're not naturally inclined to look on the bright side.
First, despite the run of five matches without a win, LAFC also hasn't lost much. In that time, the Black & Gold has amassed four draws, each in comeback fashion. In the context of the aforementioned torrid pace to start the season, LAFC's ability to avoid losing won't mask all the ails Bob Bradley's side as of now. But there is something to be said for a side that despite struggling refuses to give in to defeat.
And the second and more appealing item of note, LAFC can raise its first trophy before even kicking a ball against the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday.
Let's preview what could be a historic night in Club history at Banc of California Stadium between LAFC and the Houston Dynamo:
LAFC vs Houston Dynamo | Sept. 25 at 7:30pm PT
Where To Watch
TV: YouTube TV, KVMD
Radio: ESPNLA 710, KFWB 980
The Houston Dynamo are very much on the outside looking in. They haven't been eliminated from playoff contention as of yet but with seven points separating them from the playoff line and three matches remaining, it doesn't look good. In spite of that though, they've won two of their last three matches and were unlucky not to escape an away contest in Vancouver with a draw. Former LAFC striker Christian Ramirez has settled in to his new digs in Houston, scoring in each of the team's last two wins.
What The Team Is Saying
Eduard Atuesta on the team's mindset heading into Wednesday's match: "It's an important game for us. I think it's a very emotional game because we can win the first title for LAFC. And for the fans, it's special. We want to win the game [Wednesday] to win that title."
Walker Zimmerman on how important it is to win the Supporters' Shield at home: "We understand what a win does for us, what that means for this Club. The conversation has been around the past few weeks, even months, about winning the first trophy and raising the Supporters' Shield at our home stadium in front of our fans and supporters. So the conversation has ultimately been, let's make sure our mentality is right to go out there to fight for our Club, fight for each other, and hopefully we make it a celebration tomorrow as a moment that can encapsulate everything we've done this season."
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, Carlos Vela, Brian Rodríguez.
What To Watch For
Supporters' Shield At The Ready: The first trophy in Club history is waiting to be claimed. LAFC knows the situation - an NYCFC draw or loss OR an LAFC win and the Shield is Black & Gold. Because NYCFC plays before LAFC on Wednesday, there's a chance the Shield could have a new home before kickoff between LAFC and Houston. Celebrating on the trophy with a win, regardless of what happens in the earlier match, would be the ideal situation for the Club and the Supporters though.
Creeping Up On The Record: Carlos Vela scored his 29th goal of the season in the 1-1 draw with Toronto FC. He's two goals shy of Josef Martinez's single-season MLS record of 31 goals. Vela has scored in six straight matches and 15 of his last 17. With three matches remaining, the record is very much insight. But others are also gaining on Vela in the race to the Golden Boot. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is two goals back at 27 on the season.
The Return Of Superman: For the second week in a row, LAFC welcomes back a former player in the opposition's colors. Christian Ramirez was traded to the Houston Dynamo back in August and has since scored three goals in five starts. Despite no longer being with the Black & Gold, he'll be fondly remembered for scoring one of the two Houston goals that led to LAFC securing the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference as a result of Minnesota United's loss on Sept. 11.