August has been a lost month for the Los Angeles Football Club.
Over the past 10 days, the team lost two MLS games — including its first ever at home — lost its U.S. Open Cup semifinal on penalty kicks and lost leading scorer Adama Diomande to a hamstring strain.
Coach Bob Bradley said the team has learned from its struggles, lessons it hopes to apply Wednesday against Real Salt Lake at Banc of California Stadium.
“We all would have liked if we could have fought through this last period a little bit better, had a little bit more to show for ourselves,” said Bradley, whose team will be playing for the fourth time in 10 days. “But there’s a lot there to be taken the right way, and now we just have to build on it.”
Salt Lake (10-9-5) comes into the game holding the Western Conference’s sixth and final playoff berth, one point behind LAFC (10-7-6) in the standings. But Salt Lake is unbeaten in its last four MLS games; LAFC is winless in its last five, having been shut out twice and outscored 11-4 over that span.
“We get to the back end of the season where you have had enough games, where hopefully everyone’s available, and then you try to take the experiences, the work, and turn it into something,” Bradley said. “So that’s the challenge for us.”
The schedule eases slightly after this week, with just two of LAFC’s final 10 games coming against teams with winning records. Bradley’s team is getting healthier too. Although midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye will miss the rest of the season following ankle surgery, Diomande returned to full training Tuesday, midfielder Eduard Atuesta is nearly 100%, and new acquisitions Christian Ramirez and Danilo Silva are adapting to LAFC’s style of play.
“It’s a long season. Teams always go through these lulls,” said Ramirez, who joined LAFC in a trade with Minnesota. “It’s about how you come out of them.”
Three of LAFC’s seven losses this season have come in the last three weeks, but Ramirez said you wouldn’t know it in the locker room.
“You don’t see heads are down. So that’s a good thing,” said Ramirez, who made his LAFC debut in Saturday’s loss to Kansas City. “This team has a lot of veteran leaders who understand this league. They know one win turns it around.”
LAFC already has beaten Salt Lake this year, 5-1 in Utah in the second week of the season. That remains the only home loss of the MLS season for Salt Lake, which comes to Banc of California Stadium with just one win in 11 games on the road.