El Trafico V: LAFC’s final test of the regular season

El Trafico V
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JULY 06: Carlos Vela #10 of Los Angeles FC reacts for a call from the referee during the first half against the Vancouver Whitecaps at Banc of California Stadium on July 06, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

PREVIEW – The self-proclaimed ‘revenge tour’ LAFC have embarked on in 2019, has gone according to plan, almost. Sunday night, Los Angeles will play host to the team that’s been the hardest for them to figure out. The fifth installment of El Trafico (El Trafico V?) will be the final real test for LAFC this season, at least until the playoffs.

LAFC will have the luxury of being at home, where they have yet to lose this season. However, they have also failed to overcome the LA Galaxy in their previous four matchups.

El Trafico V: LAFC looking for their first victory over the Galaxy in massive LA Derby

From their arrival in 2014, the Los Angeles Football Club have had two main objectives. One, build an organization that competed on the pitch. Not just for the odd championship, but a team that would consistently be in contention for more than just one piece of silverware a year.

A team that could fill the city with pride for decades to come. Objective two, build a team that the city of Los Angeles could call its own. While the first objective has yet to be seen, though all signs point to being on track in those regards, it’s the success of the latter that has surprised many.

LAFC was quite literally, built by the people of the city, by the fans they are supported by. Before the stadium, before the crest, there were supporter’s groups. Working side by side those within the club to ensure LAFC truly became the heart of the city.

They have succeeded. While the LA Galaxy may hold claim to five titles and a longer tenure, their claim on the throne in the City of Angels has faded into oblivion. For LAFC, “Shoulder to shoulder” is more than just words, they are a rallying cry. A symbol of the bond forged between city and club, and nothing in soccer is deeper than that bond.

The Galaxy may have been around “Since 96,” but it has been LAFC that have made Los Angeles a home, and not just a location. Winning the MLS Cup has been, and continues to be the main goal, and lifting it would cement this year as a success. However, if they can beat the Galaxy along the way, they could cement themselves as kings of LA.

LA Galaxy

The list of reasons for motivation is long for the Galaxy. From the coronation of the team’s success, the crowning of Carlos Vela, and most importantly, playoff seeding yet to play for. Sitting only a point back in the race for second, but just four points clear of missing the playoffs, a win does more for postseason positioning, than it does for pride. The only name you need to know, Zlatan. With six total goals in the series up to now, he has been the biggest problem for LAFC.

In addition to the Zlatan, making his LA Derby debut will be Argentinian forward, Cristian Pavón. While yet to make the scoresheet, Pavón has added a spark to an already potent attack. He would love nothing more than to make his presence known in the biggest game of his career thus far.

After single-handedly dismantling LAFC in their previous match, Zlatan has sights on making the fortress, known as The Banc, look more like a sand castle prime for collapse. The scariest part may be, he’s proven not once, but twice, he can do just that.

LAFC

The Galaxy won’t be the only ones with a debutant in the LA Derby. Earlier today, LAFC Head Coach, Bob Bradley, confirmed in a press conference new signing, Uruguayan winger Brian Rodríguez, was available for selection this Sunday. Rodríguez had been waiting for his work visa paperwork to clear, and now that it has, look for him to come off the bench in his much anticipated, MLS debut.

Zlatan hasn’t been the only one netting goals in this series, as the MVP favorite, Carlos Vela, has scored six himself. However, despite his best efforts, he has yet to lead LAFC to victory over their rivals. While Vela has maintained this season is all about the MLS Cup, LAFC desperately need a win over their rivals. The Galaxy wasted no time sending out the first shot with a message directly across from LAFC’s home, The Banc.

For the second time, LAFC come into the rivalry match with all the momentum. Having won five straight, with three clean sheets, and protecting an unbeaten record of 11-0-1 at home.

For LAFC, playoff positioning is all but decided, with eleven points need for them to secure the Supporter’s Shield, and by extension, home field throughout the postseason. While the season up until has been purely business, Sunday will be very, very personal. After a respite, Mark-Anthony Kaye will be back and ready to lead the midfield for the final stretch.  For LAFC Sunday night is simple, win.

Prediction

All of the stats, trends, analytics, and data can be dismissed for this one. Only few things can be definitively predicted when it comes to these two clashing. Carlos Vela and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will find themselves on the score sheet. As the leaders of their respective teams, they will have no problem providing plenty of fireworks on attack.

The other thing we know, this match will be physical. With the Galaxy still fighting for a place in the playoffs, LAFC defending The Banc, and both teams despising one another, expect a few cards to fly. If there is one MLS match you watch this week, make it this one.

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