Many expected that by the end of this week, Los Angeles Football Club would be hoisting the MLS Cup trophy. Especially after its commanding playoff victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy — its first win over the crosstown rival in franchise history — a perfect ending to the season seemed within reach.
However, during last Tuesday’s Western Conference Final, the No. 2 Seattle Sounders ended LAFC’s record-breaking season, handing the club a 3-1 loss.
Midfielder Eduard Atuesta gave LAFC the early lead in the 17th minute with a curling free kick from 25 yards out. However, the Seattle Sounders equalized five minutes later with a goal from forward Raúl Ruidíaz and went on to score another unanswered goal. On paper, LAFC seemingly dominated the game with 69% of the possession and an 88% pass accuracy compared to Seattle’s 68%.
However, the boost provided by the Sounders’ recent history of playoff success couldn’t be discounted.
Since its inaugural season in 2009, Seattle has never missed the MLS Cup Playoffs. The Sounders are going to their third MLS Cup final in four years and are looking to win their second championship in that span.
The results of last Tuesday’s semifinal showed what Seattle has learned from its abundant playoff appearances: how to win games when losing means an end to a hard-fought season.
Throughout the game, the Sounders capitalized on limited opportunities to score. They were also successful in not allowing Vela to get on the scoreboard. Throughout the match, Seattle was physical and assertive — often putting two or three men on Vela.
Still, Seattle’s opportunistic play and its approach to defending Vela are not the only reasons it won against LAFC.
Although it did not end as many expected, LAFC’s season is still one to be celebrated and admired.
While the team will not be raising the MLS Cup trophy, LAFC was well-represented in the MLS’s year-end awards. Following a season in which his team claimed the MLS Supporters’ Shield, LAFC head coach Bob Bradley deservingly won the 2019 MLS Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year award.
Golden Boot winner and LAFC Captain, Carlos Vela, also claimed the title of 2019 Landon Donovan MLS Most Valuable Player — the highest achievement for MLS Players. Vela was also the first Mexican MVP.
Looking ahead to the future of LAFC, I believe there is a lot of hope. With a top-notch coach in Bradley, world-class striker and captain in Vela and many other talented players that were essential in LAFC’s incredible season, there is a lot for fans to look forward to.
Patience will be key in waiting for LAFC to finally win the MLS Cup. Looking at the Seattle Sounders, added playoff experience will benefit LAFC immensely — teaching them grit, persistence and fighting as one unit towards one goal.
While it is easy to look ahead with hope as to what the team can be in the future, there is a lot for LAFC fans to celebrate now. As a second-year club that broke records left and right, LAFC has set the standard for future expansion teams. This past season will be remembered for showing just how dominant a team can be in the MLS.
Johannah Suegay is a sophomore writing about LAFC. Her column, “Black & Gold,” runs every other Thursday.