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Our Pick: Los Angeles FC to win
After the mid-season break, Los Angeles FC had a glorious opportunity to move into second place in the Western Conference league table, closing the gap to St. Louis City SC at the top. However, the defending MLS champions have won just one of the last four games and the gap to the league summit is now eight points.
Their only win during this shocking stint came against Colorado Rapids three weeks ago. After that, the club lost against Charlotte FC, Inter Miami, and Portland Timbers. Los Angeles FC are still just a point behind Seattle Sounders in second place and also have a game in hand.
Meanwhile, their arch-rivals LA Galaxy are in hot pursuit of the playoffs. Before the break, the five-time MLS champions were hovering very close to the bottom of the division and it seemed like the season was over for them. However, after roping in a few new recruits, there is a sudden resurgence and the club is just four points away from the final playoff qualification spot.
The LA Galaxy have not lost a match in four attempts after resuming the MLS campaign after the 2023 Leagues Cup. They beat Chicago Fire FC and San Jose Earthquakes in two consecutive games before securing two successive stalemates against Houston Dynamo and St. Louis City SC.
Despite the difference in form, the bookmakers have backed Los Angeles FC to win this derby. They will have the home advantage and will be hungrier than ever for a win because of the series of unacceptable results.
Across all competitions, there have been a total of 20 El Traficos. LA Galaxy have the better head-to-head record with nine wins, while Los Angeles FC have won this derby six times. Five of the remaining games have ended in draws.
This will be the 16th MLS regular season meeting between the two teams, who have also met in the US Open Cup twice. One of those cup ties took place this season in May at the BMO Stadium. Goals from Tyler Boyd and Riqui Puig helped LA Galaxy win 2-0.
After eliminating their rivals from the competition, LA Galaxy hosted Los Angeles FC in a league fixture in July, where they avenged their derby loss that came earlier this season in April when Los Angeles FC beat LA Galaxy 2-3 at the Dignity Health Sports Park.
In the MLS, Los Angeles FC have hosted LA Galaxy nine times. The visitors have only won once. That solitary victory came three years ago. Since then, the hosts have won three games and one match has ended in a draw.
At one point in the current MLS season, it seemed like Los Angeles FC would have only a couple of contenders for the title this season. The defending MLS champions were performing well and not dropping points.
However, the tables have turned in the past couple of months. In the last ten MLS games, Los Angeles FC have only won two matches and lost six. The 2023 Leagues Cup campaign got off to a flier with the club scoring 11 goals in two games only to get eliminated in the quarterfinals.
Los Angeles FC will come into this match with a dismal three-game losing streak. They have conceded seven goals in those three matches and scored just two. After firing a blank last weekend, the club needs a win because they are only six points clear of the final playoff spot.
Denis Bouanga was unavailable for Los Angeles FC’s last game against Portland Timbers. The 28-year-old was away on international duty with Gabon. In 24 matches, the winger has scored 12 goals and bagged five assists.
Primarily operating down the left flank, Bouanga has been influential for the Los Angeles FC. On the other flank, veteran Carlos Vela has been pivotal. The main concern for the hosts is the striker’s position in which Mateusz Bogusz and Mario Gonzalez have been ineffective.
In the last three games, only the match against Inter Miami was a difficult fixture for Los Angeles FC. In the matches against Charlotte FC and Portland Timbers, the defending champions were favorites. Yet, they ended up dropping six points in those encounters.
Now the club needs a win desperately and it is not only for bragging rights against their arch-rivals. Los Angeles will be away from home in the next two games against St. Louis City SC and Philadelphia Union. Hence, they will need to build winning momentum.
Despite their recent resurgence, there is no room for error for LA Galaxy. The five-time MLS champions are four points away from the final playoff spot with only eight games left in the regular season.
Out of all the new signings, Maya Yoshida has been the most impressive for LA Galaxy. The defender has made four appearances this season and has been quite solid at the back alongside Chris Mavinga.
Diego Fagundez is yet to rediscover his stride as he has not broken into the first team yet. Coach Greg Vanney is being patient with the former Austin FC winger as LA Galaxy’s intense pursuit for playoffs continues.
In a very happening transfer window, Billy Sharp became the latest player to join the LA Galaxy cavalry. The former Sheffield United striker scored on his debut against Chicago Fire FC from the spot, 21 minutes after coming on.
In the last game against St. Louis City SC, the 37-year-old struck again, scoring the crucial equalizer 14 minutes after coming on. The Englishman has now become LA Galaxy’s super sub and will be looking for his third goal in five appearances against Los Angeles FC.
Resorting to the bench to find the winner will be Plan B for LA Galaxy. The primary objective will be to secure all three points with the starting eleven. The task is not extremely challenging, especially when the spotlight falls on Riqui Puig.
In 25 appearances, the Spanish midfielder has scored six goals and provided four assists. Interestingly, four of those six goals have come in the last five games, ensuring that Puig plays the El Trafico in top form.
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With an interest in strategy and mathematics, applying that to sports writing was the natural progression. A writer at night and the founder of a gaming company, Nikhil’s previous experience includes working with ESPN for five years. His specialization includes soccer, basketball, tennis, and esports betting. Email: [email protected]More info on Nikhil Kalro
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