LAFC goes for MLS-record 6th consecutive shutout

Back in action from a two-week international break, the Los Angeles Football Club can make Major League Soccer history Saturday in Orlando.

A sixth consecutive clean sheet victory in league play would position LAFC as the first MLS team to pull off such a sustained period of defensive excellence, surpassing the 2019 Atlanta United FC squad.

Early last month, a run like this would have seemed far-fetched.

LAFC had 15 points through 11 games, holding opponents scoreless just twice in that span.

Steve Cherundolo’s team now has 30 points following 16 matches, climbing into the second spot in the Western Conference, three points back of Real Salt Lake with a game in hand.

A flip wasn’t switched. This didn’t come out of the blue.

Rather, in the wake of their last loss, a listless effort against a struggling San Jose team on May 4, LAFC refocused on its positional integrity with and without the ball, leading to consistency across entire matches.

Better individual decision-making from players pushing forward – less risk, more reward – also paid off.

LAFC charged into the FIFA window with seven straight wins in all competitions, grabbing the most points for a Western Conference team in May.

“The break came and we were obviously in a good way, so a lot of people would say too bad it came,” LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo said. “But I think we needed the rest too, physically and mentally, and the players look sharp. They look hungry. I think the break came at a good time for us.”

While some players departed for international duty, the rest of the group worked out in L.A. before resuming full training ahead of a five-day, two-city road trip to Orlando and Austin.

Selected for the Uruguayan Copa America squad, winger Cristian Olivera has not returned but Denis Bouanga, Omar Campos, Timothy Tillman and Maxime Chanot are available.

Also, 18-year-old Venezuelan offensive talent David Martínez is slowly being reintegrated into training after coping with back issues. He has not played since the end of March, and could only watch while LAFC got on track, going 7-1-2 against the league over that span.

Instead of picking up exactly where they left, “I don’t feel like we’re on some big high anymore,” said center back Aaron Long. “I feel like this two-week break has reset everything and there’s no momentum now. Going into these two away games, it’s going to be really tough. We could come out of this week with three games and momentum potentially if we have a good week and do the things we want to do, so that’s the goal.”

Midway through the regular season, Orlando, the 2023 Supporters’ Shield runner-up, has been shut out seven times, including in three of their last five matches.

Occupying 11th place in the Eastern Conference, the Lions will attempt to avoid a fifth shutout at INTER&CO Stadium, where they’ve won once in eight games to tie for the worst MLS home record.

If favorable matchups mean much, LAFC (9-4-3, 30 points) has a good one in Orlando (4-7-5, 17 points), where French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris can secure his career-high sixth consecutive scoreless performance.

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Lloris, 37, is tied for the most shutouts in the league with seven and has compiled the longest regular-season goalless streak for LAFC, currently standing 480 minutes.

“As defenders, we want to help Hugo and get those clean sheets,” LAFC center back Jesus Murillo said. “It’s kind of what we thrive off.”

LAFC  AT ORLANDO CITY SC

When: 4:39 p.m. Saturday

Where: INTER&CO Stadium, Orlando, Fla.

TV/radio: Apple TV (MLS Season Pass)/710 AM, ESPN LA app, 980 AM

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