Carlos Vela did what captains do Saturday night, moving from right wing to center to accommodate Brian Rodriguez before scoring his 29th goal on a penalty kick in stoppage time as LAFC salvaged a 1-1 draw with Toronto FC on Saturday night at Banc of California Stadium.
The club’s leading scorer and MVP candidate agreeing to switch positions is no surprise as he, Rodriguez and Diego Rossi played together for the first time, but LAFC saw its season-long winless streak extended to five games, matching a franchise record set last summer.
After teammate Latif Blessing was kicked in the stomach by Toronto FC’s Chris Mavinga in the 93rd minute, Vela buried the ensuing penalty shot into the upper right corner for his eighth goal in nine starts. He and Rossi, who has 15 goals, broke the record for most goals by two teammates in a season set last year by Josef Martinez (31) and Miguel Almiron of Atlanta United.
“It was a tough first half, we put pressure on them and had great support from the first minute to the end,” defender Jordan Harvey said. “We were able to pull out the point at the end. Carlos comes up in pressure situations so we know that he would put that away.”
Toronto FC struck first when Tsubasa Endoh took a feed from Jozy Altidore to the left of goal, spun around and fired a low shot off the far post and into the net in the 19th minute. LAFC thought it tallied the equalizer 14 minutes later, but the play was offside.
At 19 wins, four losses and eight ties, LAFC has the best record in MLS and has already clinched the top spot in the Western Conference. LAFC is chasing the coveted Supporter’s Shield, awarded to the team that finishes the regular season with the best record. The honor guarantees home-field advantage throughout the playoffs — important for LAFC, as it owns the best home record in the league at 12-1-2.
Heading into Wednesday’s home game, LAFC has 65 points, six behind the MLS record set by the New York Red Bulls last season. Its 78 goals are closing in on the league record of 85 set by the crosstown rival Galaxy in 1998.
LAFC was without forward Adam Diomande, the team’s third-leading scorer. On Friday it was announced he had voluntarily entered into MLS’ substance abuse and behavioral health program.