Steve Cherundolo explains LAFC's winning mentality

Lizzy Becherano
Los Angeles Football Club head coach Steve Cherundolo explains the Western Conference side does better in the second half.
Los Angeles Football Club head coach Steve Cherundolo explains the Western Conference side does better in the second half. / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

LAFC continue to lead the Western Conference after a 3-1 triumph over Sporting Kansas City on Sunday at Banc of California Stadium. 

Goals from Chicho Arango and substitutes Jose Cifuentes and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi led the Los Angeles side to victory, making a timely rebound after last week’s El Trafico loss. 

“We're happy with the victory. It was the right response from last week, after our first defeat of the season,” said LAFC boss Steve Cherundolo, who added that he was “quite pleased with the energy, the mentality of the guys not to accept anything less than three points today.”

But the first-year LAFC coach is not yet satisfied. Cherundolo claims there is still much to improve on, setting the bar high from the get-go instead of returning for a rejuvenated second half. 

“Unfortunately, we've started games slowly this year. So we've tried to correct that. And this team has a lot of quality. They know how to defend, and they know how to do things right, and they know how to win games. Sometimes they just need a little reminder from us at half. For some reason we've been a slow-starting team, but we’ve finished off very strong in every game,’ said Cherundolo. 

“So the fitness question is not presenting itself; we’re fit, we're ready to go for 90. I would prefer that stat in the first half to be better. But obviously, the effort towards the end of games to finish games off also speaks to the experience we have in this team, and a guy like Max [Maxime Crepeau] in goal. So our second halves, our ability to finish games off, I think is a big difference from last season.”

The LAFC head coach went further into detail when explaining the philosophy behind a stronger second half, claiming the team “maximizes potential” in the latter 45. 

“It's actually quite simple and it has nothing to do with winning or losing. It is purely playing up to our potential, as a group, but also for each individual,” he said. 

“That's how I judge and view success. We are maximizing our potential. And if we are not, then I will make sure they know that. And that is how I view my job.

“I don't understand why we would accept anything less than playing to our limits, or on the edge of our limitations, and going for it every single minute. Again you saw today, we have a fantastic bench, we're a very deep team and they made a difference today. So for everybody who starts the game, it's very clear: It's 100% all the time, because we can make additions.”

His tactics proved successful against Sporting Kansas City, bringing on Tajouri-Shradi and Cifuentes in the 61st minute to turn the game around. In fact, most of LAFC’s victories this season have seen second half goals to secure the three points. 

During the match against Orlando City, the hosts held LAFC to a 2-2 draw at the half before the Western Conference giants returned to score two more. 

“That shows the character of this group, that we never give up,” said Tajouri-Shradi of Sunday’s comeback. “Doesn't matter if we go down, we can see that last week when we went down 2-0 [to the Galaxy], we came out and we tried our best, we almost draw the game. So that's the character of this group that we never give up, and we can see as well today, 1-0 down, we came back, 3-1.”

LAFC’s determination keeps them atop the table with 16 points in seven games. They return to the field on Wednesday for their US Open Cup match against Orange County.