Los Angeles, California (March 30, 2017) – The LA Galaxy spent months fortifying their roster in preparation for the 2018 MLS season. Chris Klein, Sigi Schmid, and company built up the roster brick-by-brick. They added defensive measures and attacking threats alike in the hopes of bringing an MLS record sixth MLS Cup back to Los Angeles. In reality, the LA Galaxy built their team with the hopes of holding off the team in the North (or at least the northbound I-110).
LA Galaxy-LAFC Preview: The Inaugural ‘El Trafico’
LA Galaxy vs. Los Angeles Football Club
2018 MLS Regular Season
March 31, 2018 – 12 pm PT
Stream: MLS Live
Returning home after a 0-0 draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps, the Galaxy have been riding a whirlwind of emotion over the past week. First, they were able to withstand a trip north to play against the top-of-the-table Whitecaps last Saturday night. Then, they eagerly awaited the arrival of their new Swedish knight, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who arrived in Los Angeles late Thursday evening. Finally, they are rejoined by cavalry who come back into the team after injuries and international duties.
Despite the fever-pitch of excitement surrounding the Galaxy, Saturday’s match against undefeated LAFC will be no easy feat.
What to Watch for
According to Zlatan, he is available for selection for the contest. However, fans should temper their expectations. During his press conference, Zlatan admittedly acknowledged that his fitness isn’t anywhere near 90 minutes after encountering a setback from his ACL injury while playing with Manchester United last December.
Being that the Swedish international has not played competitively in over three months, it is natural to worry about the 6’5″ forward’s traveled legs. When asked about his age and fitness during his press conference, Zlatan coolly responded, “I was born old. I will die young.”
Ibrahimovic seemed uncharacteristically realistic during the press conference. Yet, he still expects to make a significant impact on the 2018 Galaxy season—including Saturday’s game against LAFC. Whatever happens, the StubHub Center will be bursting with fans eager to see the almighty Zlatan throughout the season.
The Battle of the El-Tri 10s?
On one hand, LAFC’s creative attacker has been the creative maestro of his side’s symphonic attack. Vela allows his attacking counterparts to blitz- and to -krieg opposition backlines allowing the likes of Vela’s new squire Diego Rossi to help capture MLS strongholds in Seattle and Salt Lake City. Through two games, Vela has averaged 42 passes per game with a completion rate of just under 80 percent. The more frightening number is three. He averages three key passes per game. Those primarily come via through-ball as Rossi cuts in from the left wing, but the LAFC attack is extremely versatile. Due to Vela’s creativity on the ball, LAFC is able to flank their opposition’s backlines, open them up, and ultimately expose gaping holes down the middle of the field.
Tale of the Tape
Carlos Vela- Los Angeles Football Club
International Caps (Goals): 63 (18)
Top-Flight Club Appearances: 288 (74)
MLS Appearances (Goals/Assists): 2 (1/2)
Giovani dos Santos-LA Galaxy
International Caps (Goals): 102 (18)
Top-Flight Club Appearances: 161 (26)
MLS Appearances (Goals/Assists): 65 (23/20)
Conversely, Vela’s compatriot, Giovani dos Santos, routinely abandons the Galaxy during large stretches of games. Through two games in 2018, dos Santos has attempted only 18 passes (completing just 12). This poor run of form exceeds even his miserable 2017 season. Luckily for Galaxy fans, dos Santos is a streaky player who tends to thrive when his international status is in doubt. Never has that been the case more than in 2018. If dos Santos finds his spark, he could mirror Vela for the Galaxy. Furthermore, dos Santos could prove his fealty to the Galaxy with a strong performance, and he can erase some of the stink around his tenure in Los Angeles with a standout performance against the Galaxy’s northern neighbors.
This is the first meeting between the LA Galaxy and LAFC.
However, all-time against Los Angeles based rivals, the Galaxy are 22-4-8. The last meeting between the Galaxy and a Los Angeles based rival ended with a 3-0 win for the Galaxy. The 2014 contest saw former Galaxy forward Gyasi Zardes net a brace. Joining him in the scoring was Galaxy legend, Robbie Keane.
Final Prediction: LA Galaxy 3 – LAFC 2
LAFC will fire the first goal early in the game. The LA Galaxy will cheat to protect right back Rolf Feltscher against Rossi’s pace. Daniel Steres will have to shade towards Feltscher, and Vela will find space to fire a strike from outside the box to open the scoring.
A shell-shocked Galaxy side will begin to counter press and force balls into Ola Kamara. He will benefit from the Galaxy midfield creating pressure high up the field. The Galaxy will equalize with a quick counter through the middle to find Kamara just before the teams head in for halftime.
The second half will be open and chippy. Fouls and yellow-cards will begin to pile up as the teams embrace the magic of an Angelino Derby.
The LA Galaxy will look to run at LAFC’s number one overall pick from the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, Joao Moutinho. Moutinho, who played primarily as a center back at Akron University, is making a smooth transition to fullback. Be that as it may, the Galaxy will tire him out while exposing the lack of depth chink in the LAFC Armor. Eventually, Sebastian Lletget will find Kamara with a near-post cross to which Kamara will head home to give the Galaxy the lead.
Vela will add another to level the score before the Galaxy brings on super-sub Ibrahimovic in the 79th minute. Zlatan will not score the winner, but he will draw the attention of LAFC defender Laurent Ciman enough to slip in Ema Boateng who will cast aside his erratic shooting demons as he tucks in the winner in front of a raucous, sold-out StubHub Center. Flags carrying the Galaxy crest will fly high as time expires, and the Galaxy have temporary bragging rights over their new rivals.
There will be families and children at this game. No matter whether you bleed blue and yellow, or black and gold, there is no place for violence in the stadium. This rivalry could become global, must-see soccer; however, humans have enough to worry about beyond the shenanigans of those who seek to see others suffer.
Cheer your team. Boo the opponent. Enjoy the inaugural “El Tráfico.”