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Fueled by Cristian Arango, LAFC fighting for a playoff place despite plethora of challenges

Diego Rossi is plying his trade in Turkey, Carlos Vela is still sidelined with a hamstring injury and star defender Eddie Segura is out for the season after tearing his ACL in August.

Things have not gone according to plan for the Black and Gold this season, sitting in 9th place in the Western Conference with four matches left to play.

Despite the challenges faced this season, the playoff dream is not dead for LAFC after recent wins over the San Jose Earthquakes and FC Dallas coming out of the international break.

The final four games of the season hold massive implications for the black and gold as the Brian White-led Vancouver Whitecaps hold the final playoff spot by three points.

“We need to push to the end. We know that we’re not in the spot we want to be in,” said head coach Bob Bradley after the 1-1 draw to the LA Galaxy on October 3.

On Wednesday in Dallas, LAFC responded from a 2-1 halftime deficit and elimited FC Dallas from playoff contention with the help of a hat-trick from forward Cristian Arango.

“Cristian is a guy who, who makes the people around them better,” said Bradley. “He works hard, he puts himself into good positions, he can come off defenders, hold the ball, make passes, and of course he’s a real threat when he gets into the box.”

Since arriving from Colombian side Millonarios in midseason, Arrango has almost single-handedly saved LAFC’s playoff chances with five goals and two assists in the last two games. Arango has 11 goals in 13 appearances, filling in admirably for Diego Rossi’s midseason departure and the injuries to Carlos Vela.

A return for Vela is on the horizon, but LAFC is tasked with being cautious in rushing their star man back while also recognizing that the 2019 MLS MVP is an integral part of their playoff hopes.

“I know how much he’s ready to get back in there,” Bradley said of Vela.  “We just have to be smart in terms of doing it so that he can be at his best.”

Vela was absent from the bench in the win over FC Dallas and Bob Bradley confirmed he did not travel to Minnesota for Saturday’s match, but there is hope he can return before the end of the season.

“Most of his training has been in neutral lately,” said Bradley. “Were getting a little bit where he joins one team [in training] and were hoping that sets him up to jump back into the team in these next few games.”

Ahead of the massive matchup against Minnesota United, LAFC currently sits in 9th place in the West with 40 points, but if the Black and Gold defeat the Loons, they could rise to 7th place if the Whitecaps also fall to San Jose on Saturday.

“It’s the playoffs before the playoffs,” said midfielder Raheem Edwards. “Details are going to be crucial. We’ve got to buckle down and take it one game at a time.”

The road to the playoffs is simple — win out and LAFC will likely find their way into a top seven spot, but all three of their remaining matches are against teams currently sitting in a playoff spot.

A win over Minnesota is essential and taking a point from the Sounders in the midweek on October 26 likely sets up for a-win-and-you’re-in scenario against the Whitecaps at the Banc of California Stadium on November 2.

“We have to keep winning,” said Bradley. “Don’t expect help just keep trying to push and so the game of Minnesota becomes a really big one.”

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