As their highly successful inaugural season ramps up, the Los Angeles Football Club is still focused on learning as they look toward a possible postseason berth.
LAFC goes for a sweep of the two-game season series with the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday at Banc of California Stadium, but it may be difficult to top the first meeting.
The expansion side came away with a 4-3 win on June 9 in San Jose. Chris Wondolowski recorded a brace for the Quakes, but Amada Diomande scored his second goal of the game in the 90th minute and Joao Moutinho collected the game-winner seven minutes into stoppage time.
Since then, LAFC (13-7-8) has only three losses. The club gave up a goal late in the second half but stretched its unbeaten streak to five after a 1-1 tie with the New England Revolution last Saturday.
"I think in this part of the season you have to win points and it doesn't matter how you win," said LAFC forward Carlos Vela, the team leader with 11 goals. "We have to learn how to win these next couple of games and I hope we can show in the next game and be in the playoffs."
With 47 points, the Black Gold are tied with the Portland Timbers for third in the Western Conference with a game in hand. But even at this stage of the season, the expansion side still can soak up knowledge, LAFC coach Bob Bradley noted.
"The part of becoming a very good team that knows how to win big games -- that knows how to win games that become physical, that knows how to win every kind of game because different opponents mean different kinds of games -- that is still where we're finding our way," he said.
San Jose heads into its second game of the week after surrendering a two-goal lead in the second half of Wednesday's 4-3 loss to Atlanta United, spoiling Steve Ralston's debut as interim head coach.
He sounded anything but disappointed for himself.
"I'm proud of the group and I feel really bad for them because they gave everything tonight," Ralston told the San Jose Mercury News. "And to not at least get a point out of this game is really hard for them."
The Quakes are powered by forward Danny Hoesen (12 goals), midfielder Vako (10) and Wondolowski (8).
However, San Jose (4-17-8) has surrendered 61 goals, second-most behind Orlando City (66). California native JT Macinowski made four saves in his MLS debut against a high-powered offense in Atlanta, and Andrew Tarbell has surrendered 57 goals in 28 games.
Though the Quakes own the league's worst record, there's a high level of confidence even after the latest loss.
"We showed we can play with the best teams," Ralston said. "We just have to do it consistently."