It’s been 51 weeks since LAFC moved into Banc of California Stadium, an eternity in Major League Soccer.
MLS has added two franchises and two soccer-specific stadiums since then, making LAFC and its $350-million downtown home seem almost antiquated by comparison.
One thing that hasn’t changed since LAFC opened the Banc, however, is the team’s dominance at home. With Sunday’s 4-1 win over the Seattle Sounders before a sellout crowd of 22,221, LAFC extended its regular-season home unbeaten streak to 11 games, longest in MLS, and improved its overall record to a league-best 7-1-1 in 2019.
For Seattle (5-1-1), which was missing three starters, the loss was its first of the season and third in as many games with LAFC.
“There’s nothing like playing at home,” said forward Christian Ramirez, who scored the team’s final goal. “We feed off the energy of the crowd.”
Over the last two seasons that crowd has seen LAFC lose just once at home, also best in MLS; on the road the team has only broke even.
In addition to Ramirez, the goals Sunday came from captain Carlos Vela, who scored his ninth and 10th of the season, and midfielder Eduard Atuesta, who picked up his first. Mark-Anthony Kaye had three assists.
“We think we can beat any team in this league. So our goal is to win the championship,” Vela said. “To do that we have to have a lot of games like today.”
Asked if Sunday’s effort was the team’s best over 90 minutes, coach Bob Bradley thought for a minute then answered “Maybe.”
LAFC outshot Seattle 16-6, put four times as many shots on goal and completed 200 more passes, exploiting gaping holes in Seattle’s midfield. It was a complete performance.
But it wasn’t their best, Kaye and Atuesta insisted.
“When you look closer at it, we can tighten up on certain things,” Kaye said.
Agreed Atuesta in Spanish: “We have to look for more regular performances like today. We have to push for another level.”
Vela opened the scoring in the 12th minute, darting between defenders Kim Kee-hee and Brad Smith to run onto a perfect feed from Kaye before beating Seattle keeper Stefan Frei with a left-footed shot from the center of the penalty area.
Atuesta doubled the lead just before intermission and again Kaye set it up, stepping in front of a Seattle pass and deflecting it toward Atuesta, who found a ton of space in the middle of the field. After dribbling toward the edge of the box he feinted defender Roman Torres to the ground, stepped around him and beat Frei with his right foot.
Harry Shipp pulled one of those back for the Sounders six minutes into the second half, getting Seattle on the scoreboard for the first time in its three games with LAFC. But Vela answered four minutes later, perfectly timing his run toward a low feed from Atuesta, then rounding the sprawling Frei and putting in a left-footed shot from a difficult angle to complete his third multigoal game of the season.
His 10 goals are the most in MLS.
Ramirez closed the scoring in the 61st minute and again the timing was perfect. After pushing a short ball back for Kaye, Ramirez spun into the box between Torres and Kelvin Leerdam and accepted a return pass that left him one-on-one with the keeper, who again had no chance.
“We work on that a lot in training,” Kaye said. “I know the movements he likes to do. And he knows where I’m going to be.”
That score extended another MLS best for LAFC, which leads the league with 25 goals. The teams meet again Sunday in Seattle, but this time the home-field advantage won’t be on LAFC’s side.