If one team in the MLS has impressed more than any other this season, it is Los Angeles FC.
The proverbial younger brother of the more famous LA Galaxy, LAFC is coming off a season in which they missed the playoffs. That disappointing result stung the fanbase, players and ownership, steeling the franchise for a surprising run to the top of the standings this season.
There are many championship contenders in the MLS this year, some even coming from LAFC’s conference. Still, here are three reasons why LAFC will win the 2022 MLS Cup.
Reasons why LAFC are winning 2022 MLS Cup
Carlos Vela remains a hugely impactful player for Los Angeles. The veteran from Mexico proved instrumental to LAFC earning the league’s first overall playoff seed in 2019. Unfortunately, even though they easily disposed of the Galaxy, a complete collapse against the Seattle Sounders was the end of that run for LAFC. Vela scored 38 goals that season across all competitions, including 34 in the MLS and a brace versus the Galaxy.
It bears reminding that season was an outlier, as Vela is more of a consistent, role-playing attacker than ultra-aggressive goal-scorer. He has six goals in 13 games this season, though, which could be a good sign for his longevity going forward.
Even though Vela’s best days are behind him, he can still make his presence felt with LAFC due to the simple fact the MLS is played at a lower level than European football. Having a player like Vela is sometimes enough to win some games against inferior competition, too. Of course he helps against stronger teams as well, but guys like Vela are game-winners versus bottom-feeding teams in the MLS, where their one move could be enough to win the game.
At this stage of his career, being available week-in, week-out is Vela’s best quality, and given the fact that he has already featured in 13 out of the possible 14 MLS games for LAFC this season, he will be a big reason why they have a shot to win the 2022 MLS Cup.
Incredibly diverse offense
To be honest, LAFC’s defense is also not really that bad. They have conceded 16 goals this season, but many of them came in games that were decided by multiple scores.
But in terms of offense, the only two teams that come close in the entire league to LAFC are Austin and CF Montreal. LAFC have 29 goals to their name this season, while Austin and Montreal have 28. The caveat with Montreal is that they have 26 goals conceded, while LAFC and Austin have a respectable 16 and 18, respectively. However, quality offense is not only about goals being scored, but where they are coming from.
Out of the entire LAFC roster, 13 players are on the scoresheet so far this season. Ryan Hollingshead has four goals, Cristian Arango, Jose Cifuentes and Kwadwo Opoku have three, while Brian Rodriguez and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi have two. Then, six players have one each. In other words, while Vela is the opponent’s primary concern when facing LAFC, the damage can come from any player on the pitch. There are defenders, midfielders, and attackers that are scoring goals for this LAFC team and it will be a struggle for the opposition to defend them in an effective way.
LAFC is full of experienced players with a long track record of success. They have decided to build a championship-contending team right now instead of one constructed for the long haul. Much of what was said about Vela applies to guys like Ryan Hollingshead, More or less everything was said about Vela, but guys like Hollingshead, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, Sebastien Ibeagha, Ilie Sánchez and Cristian Arango, all of whom possess valuable experience playing in the MLS and abroad.
All of these guys have different backgrounds, but all have experience on various levels. Of course, LAFC still has young guns like Mamadou Fall, Kwadwo Opoku and Brian Rodriguez, but the strength of the teams lies with its veterans—just one of many reasons why LAFC will do a lot of damage after the regular season ends.