In a battle between two top teams in the Western Conference, LAFC and St. Louis City SC drew in a goalless match at CITYPARK, but there was a clear victor – St. Louis, with perhaps the best expansion debut season in league history, clinched the first MLS Cup Playoffs spot.
And, on the flipside, there was a loser – LAFC, who dropped down to third in the table, despite holding the newcomers from recording an 11th win at home. St. Louis City became the first to finish top dog in their conference in their first year, and on pace to best LAFC’s 57-point finish in their inaugural year.
While the result all but sealed LAFC’s fate to losing their chance to clinch a record season, fating them to a maximum of 59 points (a fall from their Cup-winning year’s 67-point feat), there were some positives to take away for the Black and Gold.
LAFC snapped City’s home winning streak at four. In his second match back with the senior side, Max Crepeau made four saves to earn his first clean sheet of the season, and the 22nd of his career. It was their first clean sheet in four matches. Defender Ryan Hollingshead made his 250th MLS regular season appearance. And, LAFC’s Golden Boot candidate Denis Bouanga (now tied for 2nd place) took six shots.
LAFC had some opportunities to in the first half. Cristian Olivera kicked a right-footed shot that bounced off the right goalpost. Bouanga’s left-footed rebound attempt went just wide of the net. But a minute later, he sent another close-range attempt that went over the net.
St. Louis goalkeeper Roman Burki was forced to make two saves during the entirety of the match – the most memorable being a 58th minute bicycle kick by the 39-year-old Giorgio Chiellini.
“But compliments on the boys. They did a great job of following the match plan. They invested a lot. We asked them to play in an aggressive but controlled manner. And I think they did exactly that,” Steve Cherundolo stated in his post-match assessment. “Just came up a little bit short in the opponent’s box. Didn’t miss by much but weren’t good enough to score on St. Louis.”
At the end of the day, the tactical chess match ended with both teams registering a total of 26 shots on goal, only 6 of which were on target.
In the second replay of last year’s energy-fueled dramatic MLS Cup Final, LAFC will head to Philadelphia to face them at 4:30 p.m. PT on Saturday,