The 2021 season was an odd one for LAFC. The Black and Gold missed the playoffs for the first time in its history after losing in Colorado on Decision Day. This year, the team had a complete 180 degree turn around. LAFC finished the regular season on top of the west, the league, and won its second Supporters Shield in the last four years. Here, we take a look at the regular season and what things lead to such a turn around.
It was more than clear that after failing to reach the playoff in 2021, Bob Bradley’s time was over as manager. The club decided with an expected, but yet somewhat controversial option, Steve Cherundolo. Many fans weren’t sure about Cherundolo, but most gave him the benefit of the doubt. LAFC on the other hand, trusted him completely. That trust paid off after Cherundolo lead his team to another Supporters’ Shield and broke the record for most wins as a first-year head coach in MLS history with 21 wins. The team might have not played the best football always or better than it did back in 2019, but Cherundolo did bring a sense of security and stability on this team.
New faces around the Banc
Probably the biggest reason why this team was able to stay on top of the west and the league for majority of the season, is due to the depth this team acquired. LAFC, led by Co-president and General Manager John Thorrington, had one of the best transfer seasons in MLS history. The club acquired important players like US international Kellyn Acosta, Maxime Crépeau, Illie Sanchez, along with European stars like Gareth Bale, Dennis Bouanga, Giorgio Chiellini, and Cristian Tello. These signings made LAFC the clear favorites to win the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup. Illie Sanchez was probably the most important player in this team. With the Spaniard on the field, the Black and Gold were a completely different team than without him. He brought the balance that the team was missing. Sanchez for many was not only the best transfer for LAFC, but also a candidate for MVP.
Stability and security
Like mentioned before, if there is one thing about this team that is different than other LAFC teams, is the stability and sense of security it brings. One of the reasons the team was able to stay on top for many weeks, was the ability to stay ahead. The Black and Gold only dropped 3 points from a winning position. This is a great sign when going into the playoffs. In the past, LAFC has been eliminated from the playoffs after being ahead on the scoreboard, against RSL in 2018 and Seattle in 2019. This team getting ahead, it’s almost like reassurance they will end up winning.
LAFC play the Western Conference semifinals Oct.20 when they host the winner between the LA Galaxy and Nashville SC. The Black and Gold have everything to succeed this season, they cannot afford another home elimination. They have the depth, the experience, and home field advantage. Seems like everything is aligned for LAFC to lift its first MLS Cup in November.