Something’s got to give Sunday at Banc of California Stadium.
The Los Angeles Football Club, making a brief stop at home after closing August on a three-match road losing skid, meets Real Salt Lake, victims of five consecutive defeats against their hosts, the worst stretch versus an opponent during the Utah club’s 18-year history.
RSL’s poor results facing LAFC were evidenced Aug. 6, when the Black & Gold rolled into Rio Tinto Stadium and scored several impressive goals in a 4-1 win.
Thirty days ago, this marauding version of LAFC was on its way to a club-record seven consecutive victories. As the calendar turned to September, LAFC still tops the Supporters’ Shield standings (tied on points with Philadelphia, with a game in hand). However, their nine-point cushion is gone, as is their chance of a stress-free ride into the postseason.
Coping with the recent spell, which LAFC general manager and co-president John Thorrington described as a “speed bump,” the club’s head of soccer operations noted there isn’t internal hand wringing regarding the potential negative side effects of adding players at this point of a strong season.
“The danger in pro sports is to look very short term and ride the highs and then drop to the lows,” Thorrington said. “Both those are probably extreme and you need to make unemotional decisions and maintain a steady hand when there is some turbulence. I think that is what we’ve done.”
Thorrington argued the timing of LAFC’s roster alterations to the team’s disconnection on the pitch was coincidental, not causal. Whether the setback is a result of turnover in the dressing room, or a lack of focus on matchday, or unfortunate luck when they have created goal-scoring chances, or poor officiating, LAFC rationalized its string of bad play as merely a fact of life for MLS teams.
“I think it’s natural in a long season, especially after successful runs,” LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo said. “The good thing about this team is it’s a team of trends. So when you’re trending positive and doing little things right, results will also trend positive.”
Real Salt Lake has consistently given LAFC opportunities to trend upward. LAFC is 9-2-0 all-time against RSL, whose lone victory in L.A. came during the 2018 MLS Cup playoffs. RSL’s five-match losing streak against LAFC dates to 2020.
Heading into the weekend sitting sixth in the Western Conference, RSL (11-8-9, 42 points) collected a significant three points against Minnesota on Wednesday. They are unbeaten in their past three league contests.
LAFC (18-7-3, 57 points) will play without midfielder Kellyn Acosta due to yellow card accumulation, and fullback Franco Escobar, who suffered a head injury in the 2-1 midweek defeat at Houston.
The Black & Gold’s respite from the road won’t last long.
After playing RSL in the final match of this weekend’s MLS schedule, LAFC heads out of town for back-to-back matches over four days in Dallas and Minnesota.
“For me the only thing that matters is Salt Lake,” Cherundolo said. “In other words, I have no idea who we’re playing after that.
“Maybe we got a little away from that the last three weeks.”
Real Salt Lake at LAFC
When: 7:38 p.m. Sunday
Where: Banc of California Stadium
TV/Radio: KCOP 13, Estrella TV 62/710 AM, 980 AM