2019 MLS Week 18 Preview — Los Angeles FC (12-4-2) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (4-8-7)

Los Angeles FC has shown it can bounce back from losses. Now it will try to avenge one of its two defeats on the season Saturday night when it puts its unbeaten home record on the line versus the Vancouver Whitecaps.

LAFC (12-4-2) avoided their first back-to-back losses with a 5-1 victory at Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday night. Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi and Christian Ramirez all had a goal and an assist, though the scoreline was flattering to a degree as Rodolfo Zelaya and Mohamed El-Munir scored in the 89th and 91st minutes, respectively.

The victory moved LAFC nine points clear of their crosstown rivals, the Galaxy, for the Western Conference lead, and they also became the first team in MLS to cross the 40-goal threshold for the season. Keeper Pablo Sisniega also had a key save late in the first half to preserve a 1-0 lead, denying Krisztian Nemeth from eight yards, and later stoned Daniel Nalloi on a penalty attempt in the 82nd minute when Sporting KC had a chance to pull within 3-2.

“We weren’t satisfied with the result in Colorado, and we’ve been on the road for some days, so to get the three points, that was great,” coach Bob Bradley said. “We have, as a team, good attacking ideas and we’ve got some very special players. So the combination of our ideas and our timing with the way some of the guys can take the ball on the move and finish, those are things that obviously go a long way.”

The Black and Gold wound up with six of a possible nine points on their three-match road swing and now return home to the Banc of California Stadium, where they are unbeaten while claiming 22 of a possible 24 points (7-1-0). Vela added to his MLS-leading goal haul with his 17th, and the Mexico international – who turned down the El Tri for the Gold Cup to concentrate on his club duties – also is tied for the league lead with 11 assists.

Vancouver (4-8-7) enters this match on a four-game winless spell in league play but also had a six-match unbeaten run end last Saturday with a 1-0 road loss to Cascadia rival Seattle. The Whitecaps, who were outshot 25-12, nearly held out for the road point but conceded a goal in the 96th minute as they were unable to break the waves of pressure applied by the Sounders.

“If you look at the 19 interviews I give after every game (this season), I never attack the ref. But today, I’ll just say this: go see the last three minutes, that leads to the goal of Seattle, and go count the amount of fouls that should have been called,” coach Marc Dos Santos told the Vancouver Sun. “A handball that wasn’t called. The foul on Yordy that wasn’t called. And then (Seattle) came wave after wave. But it has to be better. I never criticize refs, but you go watch the last three minutes and see if for yourself.”

The good news for Dos Santos and the Whitecaps is that No. 1 keeper Maxime Crepeau should be back between the sticks following his return as Canada’s keeper at the Gold Cup. Backup Zac MacMath had a loss and two draws matches in Crepeau’s place while failing to record a clean sheet.

Crepeau made three saves for the second of his three shutouts this year as Vancouver edged LAFC 1-0 on April 17. Inbeom Hwang’s goal in the 27th minute stood as the match-winner as the Whitecaps flustered Bradley’s team with a 4-1-4-1 formation that choked off the middle of the pitch.

(Carlos Vela photo courtesy Los Angeles FC official Twitter account)

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