For the first six games of its inaugural season, Los Angeles FC had to travel a whopping 14,066 miles.
Even for MLS standards, that type of mileage is a tough pill to swallow, but it was the expansion team’s harsh reality of having to wait for the Banc of California Stadium. For players like Carlos Vela who are used to the ease of transport European leagues offer the thought of finally playing at home is a great one.
“It’s really difficult [with] the long flights, the different time zones,” said Vela. “You’ve got to be more ready than usual.”
LAFC survived through the away stretch with a 4-2-0 record and 12 points in the bank. Despite dropping two games to the LA Galaxy and Atlanta United, the men in black and gold topped off their spring road trip with a 5-3 comeback win against the Montreal Impact.
“From a coaching standpoint, there’s a lot to look at but when you have a new team you create history day by day, page by page so that’s a new page in our history book,” said head coach Bob Bradley of the win in Montreal. “To come back and finish a game like that, for the players after the game we want to celebrate that and after that there’s plenty of time next week to get out a few things.”
Seven-year MLS veteran Benny Feilhaber knew about how tough playing on the road in this league can be. He was impressed by how his team handled the early-season challenge.
“I feel like the last seven years that I’ve played in MLS it was always a real grind going on the road,” Feilhaber told SBI Soccer. “It’s almost like having these six games right up front, everybody had their minds set for it.”
“The positive energy and attitude from everybody, I think that’s one of the huge reasons why we’ve been able to take 12 points in six road games.”
On his side, Bradley didn’t want to mention the number of games on the road the team had to play through their stretch. He only mentioned it while preparing the very last game in Montreal.
“Up to now, we just focussed every week on the experience of building something, getting used to MLS games and trying to develop some identity and some football,” said Bradley. This week we sort of threw the challenge out there that if you can play six games away and take 12 points as you’re building a team that’s still a pretty good statement.”
Feilhaber believes that having away streaks is a positive for team building and getting to know teammates better. Above that, Feilhaber thinks that his team’s 12-point tally over six straight road games is a positive for the long run in league play.
“It’s a huge positive having away [stretches] because coming back you have a lot of home games,” Feilhaber said. “The way that you’re playing going into the playoffs in four, five months is much more important than the way you’re playing right now and those home games tend to help you going into the back end of the season.”
“Now it’s a new challenge to be good at home and to be able to drive the game after these six roads games that we’ve done very well with and we look forward to going back home.”