Optics and Bragging Rights: All Angelino Eyes on El Tráfico Debut

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Football star Zlatan Ibrahimovic is greeted by fans after arriving at Los Angeles International Airport to begin his new contract with local club LA Galaxy in Los Angeles, California, on March 29, 2018. The 36-year-old Swedish striker's move to MLS from Manchester United was confirmed last week, with Ibrahimovic swiftly vowing to reignite the Galaxy's fortunes after they finished bottom of the league last season. / AFP PHOTO / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Editorial (March 30, 2018) – The first ever El Tráfico takes place tomorrow, as LA Galaxy host Los Angeles FC at the StubHub Center. With so many storylines, all eyes are on these two teams and the El Tráfico debut.

Optics and Bragging Rights: All Angelino Eyes on El Tráfico Debut

The tension has been building for almost a year going into this match. LA Galaxy are historically the most successful team in Major League Soccer history. In 2017, the five time MLS Cup Champions had their worst season by many metrics. On the other side, LAFC were trying to build a super club, bringing on Bob Bradley as Head Coach, then spending money and bringing in exciting international talent. All of this will come to a head tomorrow at 3 PM EST on FOX.

A Battle of One-Upping in Optics:

As previously mentioned, this rivalry started last July. LA Galaxy announced Sigi Schmid as their new Head Coach and signed Jonathan dos Santos the same week that LAFC announced Bob Bradley. The Galaxy have tried to tap into the Mexican demographic in signing the Dos Santos brothers and building the team around them. On the other side, LAFC bring in Carlos Vela, another Mexican International star.

Both sides had a busy off-season. LAFC had to build most of their team through the various off-season drafts and free agency. On the other side, the Galaxy rebuilt their defense and brought in depth at all positions. Both sides brought in proven MLS talent and upstart young players from abroad.

This off-season was as much an arms race as it was a battle for attention and the optics of being the better footballing show in town. Oh, and then the Galaxy signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

New Teams Building Chemistry:

Both sides are still building their chemistry. Outside of Atlanta United FC and Seattle Sounders FC, expansion teams don’t do well in their first year in MLS. LAFC aren’t trying to be pedestrian. They’ve taken six points from two games so far with a +5 goal differential. They’re still making signings and figuring out the locker room and the league.

On the other side, the Galaxy had a massive overhaul to rectify their last place finish in 2017. Schmid has a completely new back line and new faces up the middle from back to front. The Galaxy have been hampered by injuries early in the MLS season. It’s given some chances and challenges to the rest of the squad, but hasn’t given the preferred Starting XI a lot of time together. Zlatan’s arrival complicates things further.

Will the Galaxy be up for it Fitness-wise:

All three Designated Players missed the Galaxy’s last game at Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The team managed an unconvincing 0-0 draw on the road however. Both Dos Santos brothers are expected to be back. It’s not looking so good for team MVP Romain Alessandrini and Chris Pontius.

Injuries are a problem, but the timing of all of these is pretty terrible. The Galaxy will be looking for a result on Saturday. But with LAFC coming into the league making noise, they could be in for an uphill battle shorthanded. Considering the magnitude of the El Tráfico debut, injuries might not be a viable excuse should they not win the match. Zlatan will get just one training session with the club, but he might need to be in the 18 purely out of necessity.

Stealing the Spotlight:

The LA Galaxy’s 2017 season could not have come at a better time for LAFC. Now they’ve come in, have only played two games, their rivals are a hobbling shell of their former selves, and they have the chance to make the statement Chivas USA never could.

LA Galaxy have the history, but as Angelinos showed (until this year really) with the LA Clippers recent ascension with the Lakers struggling, they’re drawn to stardom, entertainment, and success. Both sides have stars. Due to Bob Bradley’s tinkering and LA Galaxy’s injuries, LAFC probably has a more hashed out idea of how to play. Both clubs should be entertaining in 2018, but LAFC are further along.

The last and most important item is success. If a sports team wants to make it in LA, they have to win. Despite all the history, Zlatan, etc., LAFC have a chance to get an early victory in the 2018 War For Los Angeles. A win in their rival’s house could be just what they need to announce their presence with authority going into opening up Banc of California Stadium.

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