Carlos Vela and Los Angeles FC look to claim pieces of MLS history while possibly ending the career of keeper Tim Howard on Sunday when they conclude the regular season versus the Colorado Rapids.
Vela, who is a lock to win Most Valuable Player honors, tied Josef Martinez’s single-season MLS record for goals last Sunday when he gave LAFC (20-4-9) a short-lived lead in their eventual 1-1 draw at Minnesota United. The Mexico international has as many goals as first-year MLS club FC Cincinnati and has factored on 46 of his side’s 82 goals while becoming the first player in league history to record at least 30 goals and 15 assists.
“In the end, I’m not a striker. I’m not just scoring goals or I’m not always just in the front, waiting for the ball,” Vela told LAFC’s official website about the combined goals and assists mark. “I’m trying to involve all my teammates. I am trying to help them. I am trying to make some plays for them. That’s more important.”
The Black-and-Gold can also set a single-season record for points with a victory, eclipsing the standard of 71 set last year by the New York Red Bulls. LAFC have claimed 39 of a possible 48 points (12-3-1) at home, outscoring opponents by a 45-19 count. They have already won the Supporters’ Shield as the top team in the MLS and have a bye through to the Western Conference semifinals as the No. 1 seed.
“We haven’t talked much about it just because it hasn’t been the next step,” Jordan Harvey said about setting the league record. “With each part of the season, we’ve had goals. The first being, get into the playoffs. Then be the top of the West and the Supporters’ Shield. And now, we have the luxury of going after records.
“Personally, I want it just because I think this team deserves to be mentioned in the category as one of the best teams in MLS. How are we going to do that? By breaking records.”
Howard and the Rapids (12-15-6) can spoil that quest, but that is secondary to bucking long odds to claim the seventh and final playoff spot in the West. Colorado enters the last matchday in ninth place and needs both FC Dallas to lose at home to Sporting Kansas City and the San Jose Earthquakes to not beat Portland.
In the event the ‘Quakes draw the Timbers, the Rapids must win this match by two goals to claim the playoff spot by virtue of goals scored – the third MLS Cup tiebreaker.
The 40-year-old Howard had a victorious home farewell, notching his 39th career MLS shutout in last Sunday’s 3-0 victory over FC Dallas. Howard, whose career began at age 19 with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, made three saves in his return after missing nearly a month with a leg injury, giving the Rapids an unlikely shot at the postseason after a disastrous 0-9-2 start.
“This season has been crazy,” Howard told ProSoccer USA. “It’s been up and down. I think before the Portland game in the snow, you would have interviewed me and told me with one game to go and you make the playoffs, we all would’ve said it’s been a pretty good season.
“I still don’t know how, but you want games to be meaningful. Whether we get into the playoffs, push for a playoff run and push for a championship, who knows. The fact that we have meaningful games now says a lot. In July that wasn’t even feasible.”
Jack Price, Diego Rubio, and Kei Kamara accounted for the offense for the second straight match, and Colorado has piled up 14 goals in winning five of its last six contests.
The Rapids also won the first encounter between the teams, with Danny Wilson’s goal in the 49th minute separating the sides. LAFC had won the previous two meetings by a combined 5-0 scoreline.