It's time to officially close the book on one season and look forward to another.
The 2019 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs kick off on Saturday. Following a two-week break from Decision Day to the start of MLS' "second season," 12 teams will be in action in the knockout opening round of the playoffs. The Black & Gold will not be among them.
Thanks to a record-breaking, Supporters' Shield-winning 2019 regular season, LAFC has the pleasure of watching how the first round plays out. The league's No. 1 seed earned a bye to the Western Conference semifinal and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
LAFC's playoffs don't officially start until Oct. 24, when they'll face the winner of Minnesota United vs. Galaxy. Which means 18 days between competitive matches for Bob Bradley's team. It's a challenge both mentally and physically for the Black & Gold.
"This team, from the start of the season, has had goals and one of the goals was MLS Cup," Bradley said when asked about the challenges of the long layoff. "You can see it in the way they show up every day and the way they train. So, that part has been great."
In addition to the time between matches, LAFC has also had to contend with the FIFA International Window in the lead up to the start of the playoffs. Chiqui Palacios, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Brian Rodríguez, and Fito Zelaya were all away from the team with international duty. It's not an ideal situation, but it's also one LAFC has been accustomed to in its first two seasons.
"International breaks are always difficult. As you go through the year, whenever they come up and players leave, you always hope they come back in a good way and in good form, excited to join up with their teammates here," Bradley said. "We've dealt with it before.
"It's a little bit weird this time around because it's the end of the regular season and now you wait for the playoffs. We wait for Minnesota vs. Galaxy. But we control the mentality every day. I think we've worked in a good way in training."
News & Notes
- Mark-Anthony Kaye was removed from Canada's Concacaf Nations League match with the U.S. on Tuesday after a little over six minutes with an apparent leg injury. The midfielder returned on Wednesday to be checked out by the LAFC performance staff. After testing on his right leg, Kaye is considered day-to-day as he continues to receive treatment, Bob Bradley said after training on Thursday.
- Another update on the injury front ahead of the playoffs is the status of Walker Zimmerman. Zimmerman exited LAFC's 3-1 Decision Day victory over the Colorado Rapids after a nasty clash of heads with Rapids forward Kei Kamara. The LAFC defender suffered a concussion in the collision, keeping him out of international duty with the U.S. Men's National Team. Zimmerman returned to full training on Wednesday and said he now just needs to get in as many training sessions as possible to regain his fitness level ahead of the start of the playoffs.
- Two LAFC players found the back of the net while away on international duty. Brian Rodríguez scored the second goal of his senior national team career for Uruguay in a 1-0 over Peru in a friendly. Fito Zelaya scored in both matches he played in for El Salvador in the Concacaf Nations League. Both goals came in 2-0 victories for La Selecta.