The very thought of raising the first trophy in Club history in front everyone at Banc of California Stadium should give you chills.
A mere three points or an NYCFC misstep away from that becoming a reality, you know LAFC wants to take care of business the right way against the Houston Dynamo. During the recent five-match run without a win, LAFC has gotten away from some of the things it did so well through 26 matches this season.
It's time to get back to the form that put the Black & Gold in this position and raise the Supporters' Shield in the best way possible.
Here are the Toyota Keys to the Match for LAFC vs. Houston:
Kickstart My Heart
When was the last time LAFC got off to a truly flying start to a match? Against San Jose back in August, maybe - oddly enough, that's the last LAFC victory as well.
Whether they've clinched the Shield or not by kickoff, the LAFC players have to adamant about starting the match in the best way possible. Play quickly with the ball, close space without it, and make advantages count. Despite being on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, The Dynamo have shown they can play the role of spoiler. You know the crowd is going to be loud and bringing it well before the opening whistle. The LAFC players have to feed off that energy the moment they step on the pitch.
With Albert Ellis, Mauro Manotas, and Tomás Martinez in the attack, the Dynamo can attack teams with sometimes as little as two or three players.
Houston is a side that likes to lure opponents forward. When they can close the spaces in front of their goal, they break quickly with the speed and power of Ellis. LAFC has to stay balanced in these moments and be economical with their touches. Dwell on the ball too long as your teammate makes a run ahead and you might be chasing 60 yards back to your own goal.
That doesn't mean LAFC can't get forward and take risks. But you have to do it in the right areas and always be aware of which teammates are forward and where the opponent is in too much space.
Get Around The Edges
Teams have shut up shop through the middle as of late on LAFC. The avenues between defenders in the backline aren't as readily available as they once were in previous matches.
That doesn't mean LAFC can't create advantages with the ball. Bob Bradley's team still needs to move the ball quickly and get into the spaces between the lines and facing the Houston goal. Runs have to be timed and into the areas to the outside of the fullbacks. If LAFC can find ways to get in behind the backline that way, there will be chances with low crosses at the far post or even a cutback to the center of the box.
But to create the big chances, LAFC has to be sharp in its touches, timing of runs, and the quality of the pass into those spaces.