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LAFC looks to continue hot streak while Galaxy would just like a goal

LAFC looks to continue hot streak while Galaxy would just like a goal
LAFC's Mark-Anthony Kaye, left, celebrates his goal with Christian Ramirez against Cincinnati FC at Banc of California Stadium on April 13. (Harry How / Getty Images)

LAFC hasn’t had to look far for compliments this season.

After losing to LAFC a couple of weeks ago, Columbus coach Caleb Porter compared the team to English Premier League champion Manchester City.

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Before that, Vancouver coach Marc dos Santos said LAFC was the club the rest of the league should emulate. Which is nice, but LAFC coach Bob Bradley said the praise is more than a little premature.

“We’ve not won anything yet,” Bradley said Thursday. “Before anybody starts talking about great teams, you’ve got to win some trophies. We feel good about the direction we’re going, the football that we play. Some of our ideas, some of our moments.

“And we’ll keep trying to improve in all those areas.”

It’s uncertain if there’s much room for improvement, because LAFC (9-1-4) heads into Friday’s home match with Montreal (6-5-3) on track for the best season in league history. The New York Red Bulls became the first MLS team to top 70 points in a season last year; through 14 games LAFC is five points ahead of their pace.

Bradley’s team is also unbeaten in its last six games and hasn’t lost a regular-season contest at home since August.

“Obviously it’s our massive challenge. Probably the biggest challenge we’ve faced to this point,” Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush said of playing LAFC at home.

Both teams will be without key players. Midfielder Eduard Atuesta, who missed last weekend’s draw in Dallas, will return from a sprained knee but right back Steven Beitashour is unavailable with a hamstring strain. For Montreal, midfielder Samuel Piette will miss his first game since September 2017 because of yellow-card accumulation, snapping a franchise-record streak of 51 consecutive starts.

Last year, with Piette, Montreal gave up five goals in a loss to LAFC. For the rematch coach Remi Garde may shift his lineup, adding two holding midfielders in an effort to slow Carlos Vela, the league leader with 14 goals.

“That’s still on my mind,” Bush said of the 2018 rout. “You can look at it two ways. You can be nervous or scared and have fear going into the game. Or you can look at it as an opportunity and be excited about it. I’m excited about the challenge.”

Galaxy: On the road again

The Galaxy were the best team in MLS in April, going unbeaten in five games to climb to within a point of league-leading LAFC. They’ve been the league’s worst team in May, losing four straight and scoring just one goal in their last 317 minutes.

They’ll try to turn that around Friday but they will face two significant obstacles in that effort, since they’ll be playing in Orlando, a city where they’ve never won, and they’ll be playing without leading scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who will be serving the second game of a two-game suspension.

“We were doing so well at the start of the season. It’s difficult when you go through bad runs,” said midfielder Jonathan dos Santos, who limped off in the final minutes of Sunday’s loss to Colorado with a hip issue but is expected to play Friday. “We are lacking that final pass and goal, which is the most important in soccer because you can have all the ball possession in the world, but at the end if you don’t score goals, nothing happens.”

And nothing’s happened lately for the Galaxy, who have been shut out in consecutive games for the first time since September 2017. They’ve won just once in five tries on the road this season.

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In addition to Ibrahimovic, who was suspended by the MLS for “violent conduct” in the team’s May 11 loss to New York City FC, the Galaxy (7-5-1) will also be without defender Julian Araujo, who was called to the U.S. squad for the U-20 World Cup in Poland.

Newly acquired attacker Favio Alvarez played well in his MLS debut last week, putting two shots on goal in the first nine minutes and finishing with a team-high five shots in the game. He is expected to start again although coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto could make one change to his lineup, sitting Ema Boateng in favor of forward Chris Pontius, who was effective after coming on for Boateng against Colorado.

Orlando City (4-6-3) snapped a three-game losing streak with a 5-1 rout of Cincinnati on Sunday. Nani had two of those goals and is third in the league with seven scores.

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