With MVP Carlos Vela back in the fold, Los Angeles FC believe their time for making a run has arrived, and just in time as the playoffs approach.
LAFC (8-7-4, 28 points) will put that theory to the test in a quick turn-around game Wednesday when they play host to the Houston Dynamo (4-7-9, 21 points).
Vela missed 11 games with a knee injury but returned to play 20 minutes in a reserve role Sunday against the rival Los Angeles Galaxy, and he did more than just sample game speed again. He delivered a goal in stoppage time to clinch a 2-0 victory.
Vela had not played since Aug. 22, when he was on the field for 57 minutes in another game against the Galaxy before he injured his knee. After opting out of the MLS is Back Tournament, Vela has played in just four games this season, but he does have three goals.
"It means a lot to everybody that Carlos not only gets back on the field but then scores an excellent goal," LAFC coach Bob Bradley said. "It's been really good just to have him back in training."
LAFC are in fourth place in the Western Conference with three regular-season games remaining. The top four seeds in each conference play host to first-round playoff games, but two teams are within three points of LAFC: Minnesota United (7-5-6, 27 points) and FC Dallas (6-5-7, 25 points).
The Dynamo will attempt to get back into the playoff hunt. They are in 10th place in the West and three points under the playoff line. The San Jose Earthquakes (6-8-6, 24 points) hold the No. 8 spot.
Houston was in line for three points Saturday against the Columbus Crew when Memo Rodriguez scored in the 37th minute, but an own goal by Victor Cabrera in the 67th minute tied it and each team was left with a point.
The Dynamo have earned just two points from their past four games (0-2-2) and also have just three games remaining.
Dynamo coach Tab Ramos considers Wednesday's game a do-or-die moment.
"I can't even think about the playoffs if we don't win," Ramos said. "All we can do is think about our next opponent, LAFC, and try to win that game to see what happens after that. If we don't get the points, it's difficult to make the playoffs."
--Field Level Media