LAFC IN 2018
It’s simple. Two words that encapsulate the LAFC ethos.
It’s both a demonstrative demand and a monolith of the Club’s culture. From the first team to the Academy and across all departments, it’s expected and celebrated.
In the Club’s inaugural season in MLS, it was a phrase that emerged time and time again as the team’s exploits on the field made headlines. LAFC’s season may have come to an end in the Knockout Round of the MLS Cup playoffs but the numbers speak for themselves.
The superlatives to LAFC’s season came early and often in 2018. Beginning the MLS campaign with six matches away from home, the Black & Gold won its opening two matches by a combined score of 6-1. The six points out the gate put LAFC on its way to a record number of points (12) by an MLS team to start a season on the road.
By the time LAFC returned home to open Banc of California Stadium with a 1-0 victory in the dying seconds of a sold-out match with the Seattle Sounders, the team was in the midst of a six-match unbeaten run. A win against Minnesota United and draws against FC Dallas and NYCFC brought LAFC’s points-total through 10 matches to 20, a record total for an expansion team to start the season. LAFC’s 22 goals in that time frame, also an MLS record for an expansion team, became an early sign of the exciting style of play Bob Bradley four short months his side had been together.
The start to the summer brought more notoriety albeit with nervy times on the horizon. The start of the 2018 World Cup in Russia resulted in five LAFC players being named to the provisional squads of their respective national teams – the most of any team in MLS.
While many expected LAFC to falter with so many key players away, the team went on another unbeaten run. Six matches unbeaten with the likes of Carlos Vela, Marco Ureña, and Laurent Ciman away for varying amounts of time during the World Cup proved depth was not the concern critics initially expected it to be.
Adama Diomande announced his arrival to MLS during that time with a record seven goals in his first five matches. While halfway across the world in Russia, Vela became only the second non-American MLS player to score in a World Cup when he slotted home a penalty in Mexico’s 2-1 win over South Korea.
The return of LAFC’s World Cup stars coincided with its quest for the Club’s first trophy in the U.S. Open Cup. Although LAFC came up short to the Houston Dynamo in penalties in the semifinal round, the Black & Gold became only the third expansion team to come within one match of the final in its first season. Along the way, fans inside Banc of California Stadium set an Open Cup record for attendance (17,898) in the midweek 3-2 quarterfinal win over the Portland Timbers.
The disappointment of the Open Cup behind them, Bradley’s team renewed its focus on the run-in to the MLS season. Another six-match unbeaten run was punctuated by a 4-2 win at the defending MLS Cup champions Toronto FC. The win was LAFC’s sixth away from home, a total besting the 2015 Orlando City team for most by an expansion team in its inaugural season. LAFC would end 2018 with a total of seven wins away from home. Just two teams in the Western Conference finished with more.
That seventh away win of LAFC’s season came with added significance. A 3-0 defeat of the Colorado Rapids secured the Club’s place in the 2018 MLS Cup playoffs. LAFC became only the fifth expansion team in MLS history to guarantee postseason play in its first season. And with three matches remaining, LAFC had yet another chapter to rewrite in the MLS history books. A win over the Houston Dynamo catapulted LAFC past Atlanta United’s 2017 points total of 55 and level with the 1998 Chicago Fire for the most points by an MLS team in its expansion season. Earning a point in the final regular-season home match of 2018, LAFC set the new standard for a first- year team in MLS with 57 points.
Best start to an inaugural season, most points by an expansion team, playoffs in its first season, and a whole host of individual accolades, LAFC set the bar high in its first season.