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Los Angeles Galaxy are five-time MLS winners.
Los Angeles FC are the defending MLS champions.
The Los Angeles derby is also known as El Trafico.
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Pick: Los Angeles FC to win and both sides to score. (+130)
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MLS fans couldn’t have asked for more on the league’s return. This rivalry had gotten stronger over the years and reached its apogee when LAFC knocked out LA Galaxy in the western conference semifinals last season.
LAFC no longer have to hide under LA Galaxy’s shadow – they’re MLS champions now. LA Galaxy enter every season with massive expectations – they finished last season stronger than they started it, which bodes well for them, but Los Angeles FC will head into this tie as the favorites.
LAFC have also got the better head-to-head record with seven wins, five draws, and five losses. There isn’t a lot between these two sides. This game has all the makings of a classic – it’s also a great chance for both sides to put a marker down. LAFC will edge this, but both sides will get on the scoresheet.
Last season’s MLS final between LAFC and Philadelphia Union is considered the greatest game in MLS history, but the last meeting between these two sides runs it close. Cristian Arango’s goal in the dying seconds of the western conference semifinals gave LAFC their most memorable derby-day victory.
LAFC took the lead thanks to Dennis Bouanga in the 23rd minute, but Samuel Grandsir pulled one back for LA Galaxy just before the half-time whistle. Bouanga thought his second of the night in the 80th minute would be enough, but Dejan Jolvelcic’s 85th minute changed the tide once again. LA Galaxy had most of the possession in this game (61%), but LAFC edged it as far as shots were concerned with 14 to LA Galaxy’s 11.
Just as the whistle was about to blow for extra time, Cristian Arango scored the winner to break LA Galaxy hearts and take LAFC one step closer to the MLS title. The match ended 3-2 to LAFC.
Despite getting knocked out by LAFC in the most dramatic fashion last season, LA Galaxy would’ve taken a lot of positives from last season. They endured an incredibly frustrating start to last season – Javier Hernandez couldn’t get his shooting boots on and Douglas Costa didn’t make the desired.
They were underperforming on their expected goals, and it seemed like a matter of time before things would start clicking, but it just didn’t until Riqui Puig arrived at the club from Barcelona last summer. Puig’s addition didn’t just bring some stardust to the club; he also knitted things in midfield.
In the first half of the season, far too many of LA Galaxy’s games were end-to-end. Puig’s addition bought some much-needed calmness into the midfield, and he also chipped in with goals and assists – Hernandez also went on a hot scoring run. In the end, Arrango’s strike was the difference between them and the eventual champions, which showed just how much progress they’d made as the season went on.
LA Galaxy will certainly not enjoy all the love that’s being showered at LAFC currently. They have to embrace the challenge put forward by LAFC. LAFC aren’t going to rest – they’re the pre-tournament favorites, and the big stars are standing to land on their shores.
There was a time when the likes of Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini would’ve only considered LA Galaxy, but those times are gone now.
Towards the end of last season, LA Galaxy showed they’re strong enough to beat anyone on their day, but they were underdogs heading into most of those games. This is a new season, and this match is an excellent chance for them to become the top dog again.
Now that they’ve won their first MLS title after years of false dawns, it’s time to find out if this team wants to stay at the top. Winning a title is the first step, but LAFC have the tools to build a dynasty.
They still have Carlos Vela, Cristian Arrango, and Giorgio Chiellini in the backline. They won’t have Gareth Bale, but he was just the icing on the cake. Bale’s equalizing goal in the MLS final was precisely why they bought him – to make the difference in the biggest games. His watch has ended, but LAFC’s hasn’t.
LAFC were the favorites to win the MLS title even before Bale and Chiellini joined the party because the foundations were great. That hasn’t changed this season, but it won’t be easy to put in the same sort of effort for another year.
Manager Steve Cherundolo will have to motivate his side differently this time around. That elusive MLS title was a great motivation tool, but now that they’ve got it, the team might become complacent. Cherundolo has to prevent that from happening.
If there was any game that would help psyche up the LAFC players, it was this one. LA Galaxy are a strong side and the LAFC players know it. This is also a local derby – the fans, the players, and the staff will be up for it.
LAFC will want to show they’re worthy of the pre-tournament favorite tag. Despite winning the title last season, they’ll be well aware that they’re still considered the noisy neighbors - that it’ll take a while to match LA Galaxy’s trophy haul.
LA Galaxy will also be out for blood – they’re a wounded animal after losing last season’s semifinal in second-half stoppage time. If LAFC can’t motivate themselves for a game like this, they’ll struggle for the rest of the season. This game will also be a good indicator of the challenges they’ll face all season.
New York City FC were the team to beat at the start of last season, but that slowly started changing as the season went on. LAFC became the team to beat as the season went on, and they’ll undoubtedly be that at the start of this season. They could give themselves new goals like points totals or goal scores – whatever it is, they have to be on it from the first minute because their opponents will certainly be up for it.
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Teams: Los Angeles Galaxy vs Los Angeles FC
Location: Rose Bowl
Time: Saturday, February 25 at 6:30 pm EST onwards
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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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