Bob Bradley’s first game as an MLS coach came 20 years ago with the Chicago Fire. He finished that season with a league championship.
His 300th game as a coach in the league took place Saturday with the Los Angeles Football Club. That one finished in a 1-1 tie with the New England Revolution in front of a sellout crowd of 22,000 at Banc of California Stadium.
The one thing both games have in common is they came with expansion teams. With the Fire, Bradley became the only coach to lead a first-year team to a title. With LAFC, he’s bidding to become the only man to do it twice.
And even though Saturday’s result extended LAFC’s unbeaten streak to five games and kept it in the thick of a tightening Western Conference playoff race, Bradley felt LAFC should have had more.
Both goals came in the second half with Marcos Urena giving LAFC the lead in the 52nd minute and Brandon Bye matching that on a header with less than eight minutes left in regulation, marking the eighth time this season LAFC has given up a tying or go-ahead goal in the 75th minute or later.
“The part of becoming a very good team that knows how to win every kind of game, that is still where we are finding our way,” Bradley said. “In the moment, we’re not complete enough. My hope is games like tonight actually help. We’re going to keep trying to play better football.”
Bradley expected New England would play an extremely high line and pressure from the start, and the Revolution obliged, daring the Western Conference’s top-scoring team to solve a press that often crowded 10 players into the LAFC end.
And LAFC did, getting off nine shots in a first half in which it forced Revolution goalkeeper Brad Knighton into four saves.
After a couple of counterattacks ended in disappointment — the most promising coming in the 43rd minute when Diego Rossi, launched on a breakaway by a long Walker Zimmerman pass, put a left-footed shot on goal that Knighton batted away — LAFC broke through seven minutes after the intermission.
Urena, starting for only the fourth time since being sidelined in May because of a facial fracture, took a short feed from Rossi in front of the net and pushed a right-footed shot through a crowd for his first goal of the season.
That opened up the game and New England (8-10-10) tested goalkeeper Tyler Miller repeatedly. And after Miller made a right-footed stop on a Brian Wright shot, a leaping save on a Juan Agudelo header and pushed a long Luis Caicedo shot over the bar — three of his seven saves in the game — Bye beat him with a driving header off a Teal Bunbury cross, ending Miller’s scoreless streak at home at 266 consecutive minutes.
LAFC (13-7-8), which hasn’t lost in more than a month, has put together three unbeaten streaks of at least five games. Only one other expansion team, the Fire, had a better record after 28 games. But that’s only good for third in the Western Conference, four points behind first-place Sporting Kansas City and three behind FC Dallas.
For Bradley, that isn’t good enough.
“I didn’t like the way we managed the game,” he said. “Tyler kept us in it for a while. But we paid the price.”