Bob Bradley has known for weeks his first-year Los Angeles Football Club would be playing in the MLS playoffs. So the focus has turned to making sure the team was playing well when it got there.
That plan took a bit of a hit Sunday when LAFC let a 2-0 lead get away, eventually settling for a 2-2 draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps before a sun-drenched crowd of 22,000 at Banc of California Stadium.
The point from the draw gives LAFC (16-8-9) 57 points for the season, most ever for an expansion team. But the two points it left on the field leaves it in second place in the Western Conference heading into the final game of the regular season next week against conference-leading Sporting Kansas City.
LAFC will go into that game with a chance to finish anywhere from first to fourth in the standings, with a top-two spot guaranteeing it a first-round postseason bye and the next two spots forcing it into the one-game knockout round.
“It’s a bad tie,” Bradley said. “It’s two points that we let get away.”
It’s the seventh time LAFC has let a second-half lead get away this season, costing it as many as 15 points in the standings.
“The key is not to change how we play,” Bradley added. “It’s to get better at how we play.”
LAFC played well from the start Sunday, going up 2-0 in the first 15 minutes on a pair of goals from Diego Rossi. The first, in the fifth minute, came off a neat give-and-go with Carlos Vela. Rossi doubled the advantage 10 minutes later, pouncing on the rebound of a Vancouver clearance in front of the Whitecaps’ goal and knocking it in off the hands of diving keeper Stefan Marinovic at the back post for his 12th goal of the season.
Vancouver scored in the 22ndminute when LAFC’s Benny Feilhaber was called for a foul in the box, leading to a penalty kick goal by Yordy Reyna. The Whitecaps tied the score midway through the second half when Jordan Mutch, who had come off the bench four minutes earlier, surprised LAFC keeper Tyler Miller with a right-footed laser from 35 yards out.
LAFC’s last chance, on Walker Zimmerman’s header deep in stoppage time, died in Marinovic’s gloved hands. That was LAFC’s 20th shot of the game and 12th in a scoreless second half.
Afterward, Bradley refused to hang his head.
“There’s a real sense of optimism because we’ve still get the chance to go to Kansas City next week and win the conference,” he said. “So there’s everything to play for in the last week of the season.”