There are two ways to look at success in Major League Soccer.
There is the regular season, which is a marathon.
Then there is the playoffs, which is a sprint.
In most of the world, the Los Angeles Football Club would be recognized as league champions.
But this is America, land of the playoffs, and not sports champion can claim its place at the top of the mountain until it vanquishes all its foes.
Of course, it would be remiss to overlook the regular season accomplishments of LAFC, which dominated the league and then some as it captured the Supporters Shield in a remarkable second season under master head coach Bob Bradley.
LAFC finished above everyone in the 24-team league with an astounding 21-4-9 record. The team finished 13-1-3 at home and an impressive 8-3-6 mark on the road. The club also set a new all-time points record (72 points), posted the highest-ever goal differential (plus 48), and tied the season team scoring record (85).
Mexican international striker Carlos Vela enjoyed a marvelous regular season, setting several individual MLS records. Vela was the overwhelming choice as MVP with a sizable lead over the LA Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez. He earned almost 70 percent of the vote.
Winner of the MLS Golden Boot, Vela’s record-breaking regular season set a new league-high of 34 goals in 31 games, with a 1.10 goals-per-game average that ranks No. 1 all-time in league history among players with at least 15 goals in a season. He reached the 20-goal plateau in 20 games – a rate faster than any other player – and his combined 49 goals and assists (34 goals, 15 assists) established yet another milestone.
LAFC and Vela, however, could not continue that magic throughout the playoffs. The team bested the LA Galaxy in the Western Conference semifinals, 5-3, but lost to the eventual champion Seattle Sounders FC in the conference final, 3-1.
Monday: No. 8 in the countdown