In only its second season in Major League Soccer, LAFC secured the Supporters’ Shield — awarded to the team that finishes the regular season with the best record.
LAFC made that a mathematical certainty and snapped its seasonlong five-game winless streak with a 3-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday night at Banc of California Stadium. Winning the Shield secures home-field advantage throughout the playoffs for LAFC, which owns the best home record in the league at 13-1-2.
Though LAFC needed only a draw, forward Diego Rossi scored the decider on a diving header in the 70th minute after Tristan Blackmon’s initial shot struck the crossbar and bounced to Rossi 15 yards from goal.
Eduard Atuesta added an insurance goal to send the home crowd into a frenzy, bending the ball around a wall and inside the far post on a direct free kick in the 82nd minute for a 3-1 lead after Latif Blessing was fouled just outside of the penalty area.
“It’s huge to do it [win the Shield] in front of our fans,” LAFC defender Walker Zimmerman said. “That’s the conversation we’ve had since Day 1. We’ll enjoy this victory tonight, but there’s more we want to do.”
LAFC (20-4-8) clinched a playoff berth long ago and with 68 points it moved to within one victory of equaling the MLS record for points in a season (71) set last year by the New York Red Bulls.
After averaging 2.74 goals per game through its first 27 games, LAFC had scored only four times in its previous four outings, but it didn’t take long to take the lead Wednesday.
LAFC has tallied 81 goals — four shy of the MLS single-season mark set by the crosstown rival Galaxy in 1998. LAFC has scored 46 more goals than it has allowed, the best differential in a season in league history, five ahead of the Galaxy’s regular-season record in 1998.
After Rossi was fouled hard in the box, Carlos Vela targeted the lower left corner on the ensuing penalty kick. Goalkeeper Joe Willis guessed right but it didn’t matter, and LAFC had a 1-0 lead in the 23rd minute.
It was Vela’s ninth goal in his last 10 starts and left him with 30, one short of the MLS season record set last year by Josef Martinez of Atlanta United.
Vela has two games left to tie or break that milestone. He and Rossi added to their record for the most goals by two teammates in a season (46), set with Vela’s penalty kick in stoppage time Saturday that salvaged a 1-1 tie with Toronto FC.