Motivation

LAFC hosts the Red Bulls with a motivation to focus – OCRegister

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As the Major League Soccer season enters the final third, Los Angeles Football Club sit high atop the standings and well positioned for the postseason. The team, however, still has much to play for, and Sunday’s opponent is a good reminder.

The New York Red Bulls not only won the 2018 Supporter Shield, which goes to the team with the most points in the league, but also set the MLS points record at 71.

Now both accomplishments are in sight for LAFC, which hosts New York at 7 p.m. Sunday.

LAFC (16-4-3) has racked up 52 points in 23 matches, putting the team 10 points clear of second-place Philadelphia Union in the Supporter Shield race. Seven of LAFC’s remaining 11 matches will be at home, where LAFC has dropped points only once this season.

“For us, we realize the points total record is in play. We look at what Red Bulls did last year and we’re chasing that record for sure,” LAFC defender Walker Zimmerman said. “With seven home games left, there’s an opportunity to get three points each of those weeks and that would put us there.”

If Banc of California Stadium remains the fortress it has been all season for LAFC, where it is 9-0-1, the 2019 Supporters Shield will likely be the team’s first trophy. The next opportunity for home points comes against the Red Bulls (11-9-4), and head coach Bob Bradley said the focus is squarely on the opponent at hand, not past accolades.

“Red Bulls are still a team that has good ideas on pressing and finding the right spaces behind defenses, so mixing up playing behind and threatening them in those places is important,” said Bradley, who coached the Red Bulls from 2003-05 when the team was known as the Metrostars. “Last week, they didn’t press as much; they were very compact and found success. They had a lot of respect for Toronto’s passing, so we’ll see how they choose to play against us.”

The Red Bulls have not been as dominant as last year, but are still in the thick of a tight Eastern Conference playoff race, entering play Sunday in fourth place. The team has struggled with consistency of late, but has also risen to big occasions this season, registering victories against Atlanta, the Galaxy and New York City FC.

It is one of only four teams in the league, along with the Galaxy, Chicago Fire and NYCFC, that LAFC has not beaten in its short career, so there is no shortage of motivation for the team to get a victory Sunday.

“What we’re doing is special and I think guys notice that, and that helps in our preparation,” Zimmerman said. “We’re chasing trophies, records and wins. It presents a challenge for each game and gets guys motivated for each game.”

NY Red Bulls (11-9-4) at LAFC (16-4-3)

When: 7 p.m. Sunday

Where: Banc of California Stadium

TV: FS1

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