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Soccer

LAFC and Galaxy are enjoying winning streaks and are on top of MLS standings

Portland Timbers v Los Angeles Galaxy
Zlatan Ibrahimovic of the Galaxy celebrates a goal during the second half against the Portland Timbers at Dignity Health Sports Park on March 31, 2019.
(Katharine Lotze / Getty Images)

With LAFC and the Galaxy ranked 1-2 in Major League Soccer in terms of wins and points, it should probably be no surprise the teams also have the two longest unbeaten streaks in MLS as well.

LAFC hasn’t lost a regular-season game at home since August, a string of 11 matches in which the team has gone 9-0-2. The Galaxy haven’t lost anywhere in nearly two months, going 6-0-1.

Both streaks will be on the line Saturday when LAFC plays host to the skidding Chicago Fire while the Galaxy make their longest trip of the early season to New Jersey, where they will meet the New York Red Bulls.

LAFC (7-1-2) is perfect in five matches at Banc of California Stadium this season and has lost there once in 22 regular-season games. Forward Christian Ramirez, who joined the team late last season, said the reason for the team’s success at home is no secret.

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“It starts with the environment that’s created at the Banc,” he said, referencing the team’s 22 consecutive regular-season sellouts and the stadium’s raucous supporters’ section. “It’s a little different. You come out to a full crowd that’s jumping and singing during warmups. That’s not common everywhere.

“You just start to feed off that energy.”

It doesn’t hurt that LAFC captain Carlos Vela, with 11 goals, has matched the fastest 10-game start in MLS history while the defense has given up only eight scores, tied for fewest in the league.

“It’s way more than just our defense,” center back Walker Zimmerman said. “The biggest thing has actually been the pressure around the ball from our midfielders and our front three. We’re winning balls higher up the field and they’re certainly doing well to track back when they have to. So it’s been truly a full team defensive performance.”

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Chicago (2-4-3) is winless on the road this season and has won only once just March.

Galaxy, Ibrahimovic Take Bite of Big Apple

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is making his first visit to the New York area as a member of the Galaxy this weekend, but the team will be playing way, way off Broadway when it meets the Red Bulls on the other side of the Hudson River in Harrison, N.J.

And though Ibrahimovic is second to Vela with eight goals, half of them game-winners, he won’t necessarily be the leading man in Saturday’s drama at Red Bull Arena since David Bingham, the team’s goalkeeper, is carving out a starring role of his own.

Bingham gave up only one goal from open play in five games in April, posting three shutouts, to help the Galaxy (7-1-1) get off to their best start since 2010. His save percentage of 77.1% is second-best among starting goalkeepers, while his seven wins in goal have him on pace to set a career high by early summer.

And he owes at least part of that success to a preseason pep talk from coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto and his staff.

“I was sat down at the beginning of the year and they were very specific,” said Bingham, who gave up a career-high 64 goals a year ago. “The goals of the year were win a championship first and foremost. And then get back on the national team. To do those two things I need to get back to the form I was in in 2015, 2016.

“So far I think I’ve done that.”

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Schelotto agreed.

“He’s getting better and better every game,” he said. “David is at a big level now. I don’t know about the national team goalkeeper, but he’s at this level and I think it’s pretty good.”

The Galaxy, which just finished a stretch of three games in 10 days, begin a new one of three games in eight days against the Red Bulls. New York, which set an MLS record with 71 points last season, has struggled to a 2-4-2 start this year and has just one more goal as a team than Ibrahimovic has scored by himself.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com | Twitter: @kbaxter11


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