Clinching a postseason berth as an expansion team in any professional sport is an impressive feat. Los Angeles Football Club knows that getting the chance to play beyond the regular season is just the first step to a bigger goal.
Looking to finish the regular season on a roll, the Black Gold play host to the Houston Dynamo on Friday night.
LAFC (15-8-8) became the fifth team in MLS history to secure a postseason slot in its first season after topping the Colorado Rapids 3-0 on Saturday behind two goals from Adama Diomande.
"The big celebrations come at the end," LAFC coach Bob Bradley told his team Saturday. "But tonight at least is a step towards qualifying for the playoffs."
The next step is finishing in one of the top two spots in the Western Conference and not having to play a single-game elimination match on Oct. 31 or Nov. 1.
LAFC and Sporting Kansas City each have 53 points on identical records. However, Bradley's squad fell 2-0 to Sporting Kansas City on Aug. 11 -- the only loss in MLS that the Black Gold have suffered at Banc of California Stadium.
LAFC closes its regular-season home schedule on Oct. 21 against the Vancouver Whitecaps before wrapping the slate at Sporting Kansas City on Oct. 28.
"It is important for us to be in the playoffs, but we still have a few games to play," said Diego Rossi, one of three Black Gold forwards with double digits in goals.
Rossi and Diomande each have 10 goals, and Carlos Vela leads the team with 11.
For Houston (9-14-8), there will be no return to the playoffs after advancing to the Western Conference championship last year. The Dynamo were eliminated from postseason competition with Monday's 4-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders.
DaMarcus Beasley's first goal of the year came in the 87th minute to help the Dynamo avoid being blanked.
"We're not that bad, but we're not that good," noted Houston coach Wilmer Cabrera, whose club is 1-9-5 on the road in 2018.
Houston looks to snap a 10-game road winless streak (0-8-2), and Cabrera will use the final stretch of the season to look ahead to 2019.
"It's been a tough year for us. ... We have to refocus on the three games in front of us. Try to see what is coming, and try to reorganize the team for the next year," he said.
The Dynamo and LAFC played to a 2-2 draw on July 3 in Houston in a game delayed more than 90 minutes by rain and lightning strikes near the stadium. Mauro Manotas and Philippe Senderos scored in second-half stoppage time as the Dynamo salvaged a point.
Manotas leads Houston with 15 goals.