Dynamo-Los Angeles FC Preview
Seemingly taking forever to actually happen but still owning a large margin of error, Los Angeles FC looks to secure the Supporters' Shield and home-field advantage throughout the MLS Cup playoffs Wednesday night when they host the Houston Dynamo.
LAFC (19-4-8) are eight points clear of Eastern Conference leader New York City FC with three matches to play, so a victory in any one of their last three matches would give them the Supporters' Shield. Los Angeles FC currently leads the West by 15 points and needs seven points in its final three games to better the single-season record for points, set by last year's New York Red Bulls squad with 71.
Bob Bradley's team has gone winless in a season-worst five straight matches but recorded their fourth draw in that span Saturday with a 1-1 stalemate against Bradley's son Michael and Toronto FC. Carlos Vela's 95th-minute penalty and MLS-leading 29th goal salvaged a point for the Black and Gold and moved him within two of Josef Martinez's single-season record set last year.
"We could come in and talk about all these positives," the elder Bradley told LAFC's official website. "But I still see things in these games, that for me, this time of year, are not quite to the standards that we want."
Saturday's match also marked the first time LAFC had all three of its Designated Player signings - Vela, Diego Rossi, and Brian Rodriguez - start together. The 19-year-old Rodriguez was making his second start and fourth overall appearance after arriving from Brazilian side Penarol and playing with Uruguay's Under-20 World Cup team.
Rodriguez's late-season development could prove pivotal since Adama Diomande left the team Friday after voluntarily entering the league's Substance Abuse and Behavioral Program, and there is no timetable established on the striker's possible return.
The Black and Gold are winless in their last three (0-1-2) at home after dropping just two points in their first 12 matches while outscoring opponents 38-12.
Houston (11-16-4) is on the verge of being eliminated from the playoff race as it enters this match seven points behind San Jose for the seventh and final spot in the West. The Dynamo, though, have won two of their last three after rallying to defeat Orlando City 2-1 on Saturday.
Christian Ramirez set up Alberth Elis' equalizer in the 70th minute and scored the go-ahead goal three minutes later for Houston, which took advantage of the oppressive heat and humidity that contributed to the Lions into substituting out influential midfielders Mauricio Pereyra and Cristian Higuita minutes before Ramirez picked out Elis with a cross the Honduras international headed home.
It ended a nine-match drought for Elis, who had not scored since bagging a brace against the New York Red Bulls on July 3.
"It's important for Alberth to get back on the scoresheet," Dynamo interim coach Davy Arnaud said. "He's happy when he's scoring, we're obviously happy when he's scoring goals. I think regardless of whether he is scoring goals is the threat he poses for other teams is real."
LAFC are unbeaten in four all-time matches in all competitions (2-2-0) versus Houston and were 3-1 road winners July 12 when Diamoande scored right before and right after halftime to negate Romell Quioto's third-minute goal. Rossi sealed the victory two minutes from time.
Updated September 23, 2019