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Earthquakes-Los Angeles FC Preview
While Los Angeles FC has already clinched a playoff spot, the San Jose Earthquakes aren't doing themselves any postseason favors with their current run of form.
Moving closer to an expected Supporters' Shield, host LAFC looks to continue its dominance with a season-high fifth straight victory Wednesday night against the suddenly struggling Earthquakes.
After Saturday's 2-0 victory at Real Salt Lake, LAFC (18-3-4) checked one box off its season to-do list by securing a spot in the MLS playoffs. With nine games remaining, Los Angeles owns a 16-point lead over second-place Minnesota United FC in the Western Conference. Its 58 points are 13 more than East co-leaders Philadelphia and Atlanta United FC.
"I think that from the first day, the club knew what they wanted," star Carlos Vela said. "They formed a team with people of the same mentality, and with everyone going down the same path.
"Every time we play, we want to win and we want to play good. We have to continue in that line and take to the next game."
Vela has been the ringleader of LAFC's special season thus far. With both Los Angeles and RSL down to 10 men, Vela delivered a successful penalty kick in the 64th minute for the game's first score. It was Vela's league-leading 24th goal of 2019, and combined with his 15 assists, set an MLS mark with 39 combined goals and assists in a single season.
"So far, it's been amazing," LAFC coach Bob Bradley told the official website of MLS. "He's scored goals. He set up goals. He's also been a fantastic leader and continues to raise the ball for all his teammates."
Vela had a hat trick with an assist while Diego Rossi (13 goals) and Steven Beitashour each recorded one of each as LAFC rolled to a 5-0 victory at San Jose on March 30. However, with a playoff berth sewn up and the Supporters' Shield a foregone conclusion, it's unknown how many regulars Bradley will field Wednesday.
Especially during this condensed window of matches. LAFC hosts the rival Galaxy on Sunday in the second installment of the El Trafico.
The situation has become a little more tense, meanwhile, for the 'Quakes (11-9-5), who have totaled three goals during an 0-2-1 stretch. The slide followed a four-game winning streak that was part of an 8-1-2 stretch in which San Jose averaged 2.3 goals per contest.
After falling 2-1 at lowly Colorado on Aug. 10, the Earthquakes could not hold the 1-0 advantage from Chris Wondolowski's 25th-minute goal and lost by the same scoreline Saturday at Sporting Kansas City - another team below the playoff line in the West.
Those defeats left San Jose sixth in the West. While still in playoff position, it's just one point better than seventh-place Portland, which holds the last postseason spot, and a FC Dallas side just below the line.
Now, it's a trip to LAFC, which also beat the 'Quakes in U.S. Open Cup play this season.
"I think all opponents are hard for us, and (LAFC) is one making the biggest difference in the league," Earthquakes coach Matias Almeyda said.
Wondolowski now has at least 10 goals in 10 straight MLS seasons.
Updated August 19, 2019