LAFC heads to Toronto to begin the stretch run to the playoffs

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The next home game for the Los Angeles Football Club will be September 15 against the New England Revolution. Their next match comes this Saturday when they travel to Canada to face the Toronto FC.

In the grand scheme of of the league, going by the current table, the Los Angeles club is doing better than Toronto. LAFC has 43 points and Toronto has 27. But that could be somewhat artificial when the strength of the conference is considered. The East has two teams with over 50 points, the best in the West (FC Dallas) has 46. Despite that conference advantage, LAFC is doing better than Toronto FC.

The Reds’ star player, Sebastian Giovinco, left their match against the Montreal Impact in the 72ndminute after aggravating a groin injury. Giovinco had scored two goals to help Toronto defeat Montreal 3-1, but the match wasn’t without complaint. BMO Field is shared by three professional sports teams and the grounds keepers sprinkle sand into the grass to mitigate the effect of play by the Canadian Football League.

Giovinco has complained before about the conditions, saying a player is injured in every game. Indeed, they have had five players lose extended playing time due to injury.

This is something that LAFC coach Bob Bradley is mulling over as he prepares his team for Saturday. Number one: the condition of the field and number two: who will the Reds field?

LAFC Striker Carlos Vela (LAFC)

LAFC is coming off their draw with the LA Galaxy. It was a notable match because Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his 499thgoal. He missed a chance for goal 500 when a shot from 25-yards out hit the goal post.

In some sense that was a great game for LAFC, playing at the StubHub Center and coming away with a point. Their star player, one of their stars, Carlos Vela scored the goal for LAFC, his ninth of the season. Only Adama Diomandé has as many goals. Diego Rossi has eight and Christian Ramirez has seven.

Also significant for Bob Bradley’s squad is the loss of midfielder Laurent Ciman. He scored the first goal for LAFC and was the team’s captain. He was also the reliable anchor for the center so Bradley will have to find someone to replace his considerable presence.

A couple of the names that could fill that spot: Lee Nguyen, Latif Blessing, Benny Feilhaber or Steven Beitashour. All four are experienced midfielders capable of controlling a team on the field. Who has the temperament for it? Bradley has no doubt figured that out by now. Feilhaber has shown some flash lately so he would be the most likely bet.

MLS is in its final stretch and LAFC has eight games left. Coach Bradley told the media each MLS season can be broken into four seasons, “In MLS, there’s almost four seasons. There is the early part of the year, when everybody is still trying to get their feet on the ground. Weather isn’t usually a factor, fields aren’t always great. Then you get to the summer, which can include some really hot and humid days depending on the location of the game. It includes obviously at times World Cups, Golds Cups, or Euros, so now you’ve got other factors that play into the summer. You’ve got the final part of the regular season, where there is a little bit more of fighting for points and just teams doing anything to survive. Then there are the playoffs.

“We’re definitely entering into the third part.”

LAFC is in place to be in that fourth part of the season — the playoffs — but where they will be seeded depends on how well they can finish these final regular season games. They are only two points behind Sporting Kansas City and three behind the conference leading FC Dallas. The L.A. club finishes the regular season on the road in Kansas City. Winning that match would make a statement for the postseason.

In other news, with the departure of Ciman, LAFC has recalledrookie defender Tristan Blackmon from his loan stint with Phoenix Rising FC. He was back with the squad this week.

Top photo of LAFC Coach Bob Bradley by Claudia Gestro