Two hours before Sunday’s game with the New York Red Bulls, LAFC introduced its newest acquisition, Uruguayan forward Brian Rodriguez.
LAFC is already the highest-scoring team in MLS, so adding another versatile attacker is a little like giving The Rock more muscles or Taylor Swift more heartache; it’s useful, but probably not necessary.
LAFC went out and proved that point by beating the Red Bulls 4-2 before a sellout crowd at Banc of California Stadium. The win was LAFC’s 17th of the season while the four goals gave the team 65, keeping it on track to tie the league’s single-season record for wins and shatter the record for goals and points.
Captain Carlos Vela once again led the way, snapping a 2-2 tie on a penalty kick in the 61st minute and assisting on two other goals. The goal was his league-leading 23rd of the season. The assists gave him a league-leading 15 — and a hand in 38 scores on the season, tying Sebastian Giovinco’s MLS record.
By comparison, 12 of the 24 MLS teams don’t have 38 scores this season.
Two of the other three goals Sunday came from defenders Jordan Harvey and Eddie Segura, the 13th and 14th players to score for LAFC, which has had at least four goals in nine of its 17 wins.
And Rodriguez hasn’t even put on a uniform yet.
“By no means were we desperate to add anybody,” general manager John Thorrington said. “And that’s a great position to be in.”
But, he added, “you can never have enough.”
For the time being Rodriguez, 19 — who cost LAFC a club-record $8.1-million transfer fee, the ninth richest in league history and the second highest for a teenager — will be brought along slowly. His best position is on the left wing where Diego Rossi, another Uruguayan LAFC signed as a 19-year-old, plays.
But Rossi, fourth in MLS with 13 goals, has drawn interest from Europe and Rodriguez provides insurance in case of a move this winter. For the rest of this season, he gives LAFC coach Bob Bradley four quality forwards for three positions.
“There’s value in the flexibility of the players who can play different positions,” Thorrington said. “It’s another weapon for us.”
Sunday’s victory was the third impressive win in as many weeks for league-leading LAFC (17-3-4), which, in order, has beaten reigning MLS champion Atlanta United, the hottest team in the New England Revolution, and the Red Bulls, the defending Supporters’ Shield winners, who finished last season with the most points in league history.
Harvey opened the scoring, heading in a long Vela free kick in the 23rd minute for his first goal in nearly three years. Latif Blessing doubled the advantage two minutes later, sliding onto a Steven Beitashour pass for his fourth goal this season and second in as many weeks.
New York (11-10-4) pulled even just before the intermission, with Cristian Casseres Jr. putting a right-footed shot past Tyler Miller at the near post in the 42nd minute and Brian White sliding between Harvey and Beitashour to deflect a Daniel Royer feed off the left post, then off Miller’s backside for an own goal.
The tie didn’t last long, though, with Eduard Atuesta setting up the go-ahead goal by going down in the box on a challenge from Rece Buckmaster. When Vela converted the penalty kick, it gave him 37 goals in MLS, breaking Cubo Torres’ record for a Mexican player.
Segura closed out the scoring 11 minutes later, collecting his first MLS goal by heading in another long Vela free kick. And Rodriguez hasn’t even practiced with the team yet.
“We’re a team that has talented attacking players and we’re excited that we can bring Brian in,” Bradley said afterward. “We try to be a team that creates chances in different ways. So we have to have attacking ideas.
“You can always get better.”