Riding a franchise-record 325-minute shutout streak, Los Angeles FC looks to post a fifth consecutive victory and stay atop the Western Conference on Wednesday night when it faces the Vancouver Whitecaps and former assistant Marc Dos Santos.
Looking anything but a second-year franchise, LAFC (6-0-1) has gotten off to an impressive start for the second straight year and is four points better than its inaugural opening of five wins in seven matches.
The Black-and-Gold recorded a third consecutive clean sheet for the first time in club history Saturday with a 2-0 victory over expansion club FC Cincinnati. Tyler Miller needed to make just two saves for that landmark shutout as Mark-Anthony Kaye and Carlos Vela scored on either side of halftime.
Vela’s goal was his league-leading eighth of the young season, and he also picked up his MLS-best fifth assist on Kaye’s goal. The Mexico international has factored on nearly two-thirds of LAFC’s 21 goals and off to a blazing follow-up to his 14 goals and 14 assists last year when the club broke into the league.
“I’m a DP player, they bought me to do these things,” Vela said about his offensive contributions. “I’m pushing myself to be the best Carlos Vela as possible and I think I’m doing well. Every game, I have to do something for my team and hope we have a great season.”
Vancouver (0-5-2) is one of three Western Conference teams without a victory and enters this match in 10th place in the 12-team conference. The Whitecaps have been a fairly stingy side defensively, yielding 10 goals, but they have only scored five following Friday night’s 1-1 draw at Chicago.
Yordy Reyna ended a 269-minute goalless drought for Vancouver on 53 minutes, but the Whitecaps were denied all three points late on a penalty after VAR ruled Doneil Henry had committed a handball in the box.
“I’m not going to argue with the referees and all that,” Henry said after pointing to his shoulder area where he claimed the ball hit him. “You control what you can control. It was a tough game. One of those games that was scrappy and we take the point and move on.”
Dos Santos makes his return to LAFC after serving as an assistant under Bob Bradley last year before taking his first MLS head coaching job. His primary challenge will be slowing down both Vela and Diego Rossi, who has six goals.
“Carlos is a difference maker in MLS, a very good 1-v-1,” Dos Santos said. “That’s the club in MLS that does everything right. They have the ideal DP for that market in Vela, a stadium in the heart of LA … that’s the example, that’s the standard, how close can you get to that.”
LAFC took four points from the two matches last year, winning 2-0 at Vancouver and playing to a 2-2 draw at home. Rossi scored three of the four goals, including both in the draw at home, while Vela had a goal and an assist in the two matches.
(Carlos Vela photo courtesy Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports)