It was a day of celebration as LAFC sealed a second Supporters’ Shield title in four years on Sunday, but the real work has only just begun.
The last time the Black and Gold were in this position, they crashed out of the MLS Cup Playoffs at the Western Conference Final stage, throwing away a 1-0 lead to lose 3-1 at home to eventual champions the Seattle Sounders.
With that in mind, celebrations for Sunday’s achievement will remain brief as the focus remains on the big prize that has so far eluded LAFC during their previous three years in MLS.
“This is the first step. This is the first trophy we want to win. Today we will celebrate, tomorrow maybe as well. But after that we have to be focused on the Playoffs, because we know already that even if you win the Supporters’ Shield, it’s nothing if you don’t win the MLS Cup,” said Carlos Vela, who opened the scoring in a 2-1 win over the Portland Timbers on Sunday. “So I hope we will learn from that experience in the past, and I hope we can do a better job in the playoffs and win the trophy that we really want.”
All of that said, it remains a fact that the Supporters’ Shield is an undervalued trophy in American soccer. Whereas in Europe, the league leader is the ultimate champion and most respected team, that honor is often overlooked in MLS.
However, it takes a special team to come out on top. Speaking emotionally after LAFC sealed their title with a 95th-minute winner from Denis Bouanga, Vela was keen to stress the importance of being league leaders, even in a playoff system.
“It’s a great feeling because in the end, this league is a little bit different because you have a playoff and you play all your season in three [playoff] games,” the Mexico international said. “But this is the real work of all the year, when you do a good job. Of course, we decided to complicate our way to get it, but in the end, I think we did a lot of good things and this is the reward to the team for all the effort.”
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