The 3252 Breakdown : The 2018 Season
Somehow, the MLS regular season came to a close on Sunday. 239 days after we saw our first ever game and win on the road, we finished up 3rd overall in the Western Conference and get to host a game in the first round of the playoffs. While not getting the number one spot is disappointing, if someone would have told me on March 3rd that LAFC were going to be the 3rd best team in the west, I would have taken it in a heartbeat. Now that the season is over though, let’s take a quick moment to do a 3252 breakdown on the 2018 regular season.
3 things that went well this season:
We made the postseason! It’s hard to explain how hard it is to make the postseason, especially in your expansion year. LAFC is only the 5th team to make the MLS playoffs in their inaugural year, something that should be celebrated. We are also only one of two teams from the Western Conference that was able to stay in a playoff position the entire season (the other being Sporting KC). To stay above the 6th team line would be a big deal for any other team, expansion or not.
Goals, goals, goals, and yeah, more goals. It is unreal how offensive minded LAFC was during this year. Our boys in the Black & Gold scored more goals than anyone in the Western Conference and second most in all of the MLS. Yes, you read that right. We scored 68 times in 34 games. The closest team to us in the west was Carson, with 66 goals and only the high power Atlanta United team scored more, with 70 goals total. The offensive front of Vela, Rossi, Dio, and Blessing helped LAFC put the ball into the back of the net almost every game.
LAFC’s many adjustments during the season. Towards the beginning of the year, I wrote a couple of times that LAFC was not holding onto the ball long enough, playing with a Leicester City counterattack style circa 2016 when Leicester won the Premier Leauge. Throughout the season though, LAFC started to gain control of the ball more, allowing for more chances and dictating play through the midfield. The acquisition of Nguyen was a key part of this change, especially when he became more settled in. LAFC also became more confident on the backline, which has allowed for the team to move the back quicker up the pitch and no longer required 11 men behind the ball when the other team was pressing.
2 things that didn’t go well:
Collapses. I wrote about this during the middle of the summer when it felt like all LAFC was doing was just letting go of leads, especially in the final moments of the game. We arguably lost about 12 points total in the last moments of games, something that would have allowed us easily to win the top spot in the west. The last 10 minutes of games are going to be stressful all postseason because I just have no idea if LAFC can play all 90 minutes to hold out for a win or clean sheet.
The loss of Ciman and Kaye. First, let’s start with Ciman. I didn’t know much about him before he moved to LAFC, but man, I fell in love with his style of play. It was great to have someone that was able to give direction to young players and players that had not been in the MLS before. He was respected both on and off the pitch, and I feel that all of LAFC fans and supporters were able to get behind him. I can totally understand as to why we wanted to go back to Europe, but it was a little bit painful to see our first ever team captain leave LAFC. As for Mark-Anthony Kaye, he was making a name for himself. He was reliable, quick, and played with passion and aggression. The minute we lost him to that broken ankle, we were lost for quick some time. We have made strides without him, but he has to be one of the best signings LAFC this season. I will be looking forward to him coming back to the team next year and creating havoc in the midfield.
5 key moments from the season:
Our first ever game and our first ever win. The amount of support this team had before it ever kicked a ball was already insane. All the events for members leading up to this year and all the hype that surrounded a new team in LA is always going to be memorable. But to make a real statement, especially in this town, you simply have to win. And to go to Seattle, the two-time defending Western Conference Champions, and not only play well, but to WIN? Unreal. What a moment for this club and what a moment to show the rest of MLS that we were not going to be pushed around.
April 29th, 2018. Finally, for a vast majority of the fans, LAFC was going to play in front of them, live, and in person. It was my first ever MLS game and it will be one that I will never forget. The atmosphere was incredible as everyone hung onto every touch of the ball. And then, to go almost the whole damn game 0-0, but to win it on a Ciman free kick, it was just special.
Our comeback against Montreal early in the season. It set the tone early that this team was never going to back down to established MLS teams. It also showed that we were able to come back from being down in a game, something that had not happened yet. It was also the Open House for the Banc, so it was cool to meet more LAFC fans and get a feel for how awesome our home was going to be.
Getting knocked out in the semifinals of the US Open Cup. Maybe one of the most gut-wrenching losses we had all year. To lose against Houston, a team we should have beat even on the road, was brutal. It was also tough to lose on penalties when we had the advantage at one point. I know that Ciman missed the most important penalty, but I hope that LAFC fans don’t have that as their lasting memory of our first captain.
LAFC becoming the greatest expansion team in MLS history. At the beginning of the year, I had no idea what to expect from the team. To grow this team from nothing and be the greatest is just incredible. If Atlanta United didn’t have the season they had last year, I think LAFC would be talked about more and given more recognition. Bradley is not getting the credit he deserves from creating this team to make them perform in this way is just insanely good. He should be the MLS coach of the year.
2 key players from the year:
Carlos Vela. The new captain has taken all the players under his wing, especially the young strikers, to motivate everyone to work harder. He has been a massive presence on the pitch, making the opposing team account for him on the pitch at all times. He has also scored some amazing goals and accounted for some amazing assists. During press conferences, you can see him taking charge now, vowing to push the Black & Gold to new heights. Vela is also an MVP candidate for the MLS this season, making him a worthy MVP for our team.
The 3252! (I couldn’t miss them!) When I found out that Banc was going to have a whole part of the stadium that was going to be a safe-standing section, I knew it was going to be a hit right away. As a supporter of the Glasgow Celtic FC, they have a safe standing section and it has been a big hit not only with the fans for Celtic but also in all of Britain. It’s been amazing to watch the LAFC fans, the LA community, and the soccer world, take in the energy and passion that LA is providing. There has been a common rhetoric that the United States would never have passionate fans or create an environment that would even come close to a traditional European one. Unbelievably, or believably depending on who you talk to, LAFC has done exactly that. The passion, the non-stop singing, the chants, and the jumping for 90 minutes has just been incredible. Everyone who is part of the 3252 should be proud and take pride in being apart of such an amazing fan section.
LAFC has created memories and moments that everyone will be able to take away. As an original member, I am still blown away on how great this season has been. Yes, there have been some low moments, but by in large, this season has been epic. Enjoy the playoffs fam, it’s going to be stressful but it should also be a joy to watch our team represent this city and us for the rest of the nation. Be loud and Go LAFC!
YOU CAN FOLLOW ANDREW DORAN ON TWITTER AT @APDORAN. FEEL FREE TO SEND COMMENTS, SUGGESTIONS, OR IDEAS TO HIM!