LAFC wants strong finish against San Jose before 3-week break

After bowing out of the U.S. Open Cup tournament with disappointing performances earlier this week, Los Angeles FC and the San Jose Earthquakes meet on Saturday before a much-needed three-week international break.

One-third of the way through a Major League Soccer season that featured a taxing cluster of eight matches in May for both of these teams, LAFC players, coaches and front office executives say they feel good about where they are as the season moves into its summer block.

Leading the Supporters’ Shield race, LAFC (8-3-2, 26 points) is 3-3-1 so far this month. The Earthquakes (3-5-5, 14 points) went 3-2-2 over that same stretch.

San Jose’s 2-0 Open Cup defeat at second division Sacramento FC marked the second time in nine games that the Earthquakes have lost since Argentinian head coach Matias Almeyda left following seven winless matches to begin the season.

Setting aside Almeyda’s unique man-marking system that never took hold in San Jose, the Earthquakes appear better off since reverting to a more familiar zonal system under interim head coach Alex Covela.

“They’re not going to be a team that falls over,” said LAFC midfielder Kellyn Acosta, who leaves for the U.S. men’s national team camp following the match. “They’ve been scoring goals and winning some matches, so for us it’s to get back on track and go into the break on a high note.”

Defender Ryan Hollingshead echoed teammates and coaches by acknowledging the importance of their seventh match over 21 days.

“In this league, you’ve got to have a thick skin and a really short memory and you’ve got to be ready to bounce back and that’s what we plan to do,” he said. “It’s a really long season. It’s a long year here in MLS. We’re not hanging our hat on one victory or one loss or one tie or one anything.

“We haven’t tapped into a lot of what this team can do still, so that’s scary to think about considering where we are, top of the table.”

On the heels of a second defeat to the Galaxy this year, failing also to avoid consecutive league losses at Banc of California Stadium for the first time won’t undo LAFC’s successes, but it could ramp up pressure inside the organization and among the fan base to to make significant moves when the secondary transfer window opens on July 7.

Time off in June should allow the group as it stands to fully recover from injuries that have challenged what LAFC GM John Thorrington called the “deepest team we’ve ever had.”

Following their “El Trafico” cup defeat, Carlos Vela is questionable with a right quadriceps injury and won’t be available against San Jose. Neither is center back Jesus Murillo (yellow card accumulation) or Diego Palacios (head injury).

Thorrington did not directly address reports linking 37-year-old Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini with LAFC following his final season with Juventus, but adding a Designated Player alongside Carlos Vela, and Brian Rodriguez is a bet he said he would make.

Interest from outside clubs in young LAFC players such as Palacios, Mamadou Fall, Mahala Opoku and Jose Cifuentes could also prompt moves, Thorrington said. If so, there are contingency plans at every position leading to “some really good options.”


When: Saturday, 3 p.m.

Where: Banc of California Stadium

TV/Radio: UniMás, TUDN / 710 AM, 980 AM, ESPN app

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