The expansion Los Angeles Football Club has seen a little bit of everything four games into its existence.
The team has pitched a shutout and then been shut out. It has come from behind to win and given up a big lead to lose. It has won two in a row and been beaten in consecutive games.
"I expected ups and downs," veteran defender Steven Beitashour said. "There's going to be days where guys are sharper, guys do everything right. And there's going to be days where guys just aren't as quick and aren't as sharp."
But Beitashour is hoping there won't be any more days like last Saturday, when LAFC watched a two-goal deficit dissolve into an ugly 5-0 loss in the final 10 minutes against Atlanta United. LAFC (2-2) gets a chance at rebounding Friday when it travels to Vancouver to play its fifth consecutive road game against the Whitecaps (3-2-1) (YouTube TV, 7 p.m.).
"The wheels kind of fell off," Beitashour said of a 10-minute stretch that saw the team give up three goals — two on penalty kicks — and lose a player to two yellow cards. "That's what myself and other guys [told] the younger guys and guys that are new in the league. That can't happen."
Coach Bob Bradley said he delivered the same message. Only he wasn't nearly as polite.
"At the end of the game the pride in what we're all about and the identity of what we have, that has to be established," he said. "We will change that part. That is not the way we're going to go about things."
Bradley's team has played well in stretches this season, winning its first two games and outscoring opponents 9-1 through its first 240 minutes. Then came the final half hour of its inner-city derby with the Galaxy, when LAFC became only the second team in MLS history to let a 3-0 lead turn into a 4-3 loss.
Add in last week's debacle in Atlanta, and LAFC has gone 154 minutes without a goal. Over the same stretch it has given up nine scores.
"It's a new team," goalkeeper Tyler Miller said. "Each week we're learning something. 'OK, we're good at this but we also need to improve in this.' We're still building chemistry all over the field. So we're going to find what best 11 works for us."
LAFC continues to audition candidates for that 11. Center back Walker Zimmerman made his first start of the year in Atlanta and Bradley got a look at newly arrived Colombian midfielder Eduard Atuesta off the bench in each of the last two games. Next up is Egyptian international Omar Gaber, who hasn't played for LAFC this season but participated in full training this week and could make his MLS debut in Vancouver.
"In all our games I've seen good things. In all our games I see things that still must get better," Bradley said. "As you're building a team, as you're developing a style of play, as you're establishing a mentality, these things come through different kinds of games.
"I know what I want from the team. In four games we've seen enough to know we're going in an excellent direction."