The Los Angeles Football Club is just 49 regular-season games old. But the team certainly hasn’t lacked for accomplishment in that brief time.
With Friday night’s methodical 4-2 win over the Montreal Impact at Banc of California Stadium, LAFC has scored more goals and earned more points in its short MLS history than any other team over the same 15-month span.
No team has lost fewer games than LAFC’s 10. And only two have won more than LAFC’s 26.
Yet coach Bob Bradley insists his young club can get better — a lot better.
Which is why he closed the locker room following the game and had an extended meeting to let his players know being nearly perfect isn’t the same as perfection.
“Our final plays still need to get better,” he said, beginning a litany of things he said the team has to clean up. “We just have to keep trying to improve.
“I have high standards with these guys. So it’s not about yelling after a game like that. It’s just about making sure they understand that we certainly, at the end of the game, lost our way a little bit.”
As good as LAFC has been as a team, though, there are two players who have stood out above the rest. With a goal and two assists Friday, Carlos Vela leads MLS in both categories and has a shot and becoming the first player in league history to finish a season with 20 of each.
His 15 goals and nine assists have given him a hand in 24 of his team’s 36 scores this season.
On the other end of the field, Friday’s victory was the 26th in an MLS uniform for Tyler Miller. No MLS goalkeeper has more over the last season and a half.
Miller too has been nearly perfect in May. Although opponents have scored three times against him this month, both Montreal goals Friday came off defensive errors, the first deflecting in off LAFC center back Eddie Segura for an own goal and the second coming on a penalty kick following a Walker Zimmerman foul in the box.
And we haven’t even mentioned LAFC’s record at home, where it has lost just one regular-season game in two seasons and is unbeaten in the last 14. No team in MLS has done better.
“Look, we feel good about the fact that we’re going in a good direction,” Bradley said. “But you can’t stop now. We’re not there yet. That’s the way we try to look at things.”
LAFC (10-1-4) certainly didn’t need any help getting started Friday but got some anyway, taking a quick lead on a quirky play in the seventh minute.
The sequence began with Montreal midfielder Saphir Taider playing the ball back to keeper Evan Bush, who failed to settle it with his first touch. By the time he got control, he was being rushed by Christian Ramirez, who stepped in front of Bush’s attempt at a clearance and deflected the ball into the net for his first goal in more than a month.
Vela doubled the lead in the 28th minute. That play began with Eduard Atuesta threading a neat pass between Montreal’s Jukka Raitala and Zakaria Danilo to Vela, who timed his run perfectly, leaving him with an easy finish.
Latif Blessing added to the lead three minutes later with his first goal of the season, one Vela made possible with a left-footed feed into the box.
With the way Miller has been playing, a 3-0 halftime deficit must have looked insurmountable to Montreal. But LAFC kept coming, with a Vela corner kick setting up Tristan Blackmon for a header 10 minutes after the intermission.
After that, LAFC seemed to lose interest.
“The end of the game, we’ve had such a good way this year,” Bradley complained. “We’ve had good concentration. We’ve played to the end of matches. Today, we didn’t.”
Added Vela: “We have to find ways to improve.”
Segura’s own goal in the 70th minute got Montreal (6-6-3) on the board. Taider then tacked on a penalty-kick score 14 minutes later.
“We haven’t won any trophies yet,” Bradley said. “We haven’t even figured out where the space for a trophy case is going to be.