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LA Galaxy host LAFC this Saturday at Dignity Health Sports Park. The LA Derby is always a special occasion, so this should be no different.
LAFC are the defending MLS champions and sitting in third place on the western conference table. They don’t look as dominant as last season, but they still look like one of the strongest teams in the league.
On the other hand, LA Galaxy have made a horror start to this season after impressing towards the end of last season. Javier Hernandez’s injury has derailed the entire season.
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The El Traffico is always a special occasion, regardless of where these teams are on the table. This rivalry has taken greater significance over the years and provided some blockbuster encounters, including last season’s western conference semi-finals.
LAFC won their first MLS title last season in the most dramatic circumstances, but they’re still far from achieving what LA Galaxy have accomplished in the MLS. As things stand, however, LAFC are the overwhelming favorites heading into this game.
LA Galaxy have made a disastrous start to the season and are sitting in 13th place in the Western Conference with just three points on board after six matches. Javier Hernandez’s absence due to injury has been a major blow for LA Galaxy this season. Even though they’re playing at home, there’s nothing to suggest LA Galaxy will get a point from this.
The bigger question is if LA Galaxy will avoid humiliation. LAFC could really embarrass their rivals this weekend.
Despite LA Galaxy’s hold on this competition, with five MLS title, LAFC have the better head-to-head record with seven wins, five draws, and five losses in the 17 matches played between these sides. The last meeting between these two sides was an unforgettable one.
If it weren’t for last season’s final between LAFC and Philadelphia Union, the semifinal tie between the two local rivals would be a strong contender for the greatest MLS game of all time honor. Cristian Arango was the hero last time out with a goal in the dying seconds of the western conference semifinals, which ended 3-2 in favor of LAFC.
Dennis Bouanga opened the scoring for LAFC in the 23rd minute before Samuel Grandsir pulled one back for LA Galaxy just before the half-time whistle. Bouanga got his second of the day in the 80th minute, but Dejan Jolvelcic had other ideas with an equalizer in the 85th minute. Arango, as mentioned earlier, scored the all-important winner to cap off a historic win.
LA Galaxy had most of the possession in this game (61%), but LAFC edged it when it came to shots – they took 14 shots to LA Galaxy’s 11. It was a fitting result for LAFC, who were the best league side last season.
LA Galaxy had another night to forget in a 3-0 loss to Houston Dynamo over the weekend. Houston Dynamo’s Armine Bassi scored a second-half brace (65’ and 73’) after Hector Herrera gave them the lead in the 35th minute.
LA Galaxy didn’t help themselves with Martin Cacares and Douglas Costa getting sent off. Caceres was sent off in the 63rd minute, and the latter was sent off in second-half stoppage time. Houston Dynamo’s Hector Herrera was also sent off in added time.
The concerning aspect for LA Galaxy was that experienced players like Caceres and Costa showed a lack of discipline. The two have played for some of the biggest clubs in Europe and have set a bad example for the rest of the side.
Just when it looked like they were back in the big time, Javier Hernandez’s injury halted all the progress from last season. The Mexican needs his fair share of chances and isn’t as mobile as he used to be, but he is still a reliable goalscorer. He scored 19 goals in 38 games last season, and LA Galaxy have nobody to replace him.
Hernandez will be back soon, but by the time he’s back, they might have too much to do to get a playoff spot; they’ll be relying on an aging player who has just recovered from an injury to bail them out, which isn’t ideal. The MLS season is quite long, with many matches still left, but playing catch-up adds another layer of stress that teams can do without. The New England Revolution had a similar issue last season and never recovered after their poor start. Even after their best players were back, they struggled, and the LA Galaxy might have the same issues.
Denis Bouanga continued his good form with a hat-trick against Austin in LAFC’s last MLS match. The forward’s goals came in the 40th, 57th, and 68th minute, and it was no less than he deserved. Bouanga, who joined the club from Saint-Etienne, has made an excellent start in the MLS with six goals already.
He has been extremely clinical, and it remains to be seen if he’ll be able to keep this up. His expected goals currently read 2.1, which suggests that he’s overperforming and won’t be able to sustain this, so LAFC have to find other sources for goals eventually, but this will do for now.
There was no doubt who the better team was in this match. LAFC took 26 shots to Austin’s nine and had six on target compared to Austin’s four. LAFC were relentless in their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals legs against Vancouver as well, winning 6-0 on aggregate. They are the team to beat in the MLS.
LAFC have a game to spare, and a win will take them to the top of the table again. They’re yet to lose a game, and LA Galaxy are yet to win one. LAFC have conceded just three goals all season, whereas LA Galaxy have only scored three. There’s no excuse for LAFC not to win this tie.
LAFC won’t get too many better opportunities to really damage the morale of their local rivals. LA Galaxy are at one of their lowest ebbs right now, so LAFC have a great chance to lay down a marker in the league and against their fiercest rivals.
They’ve had to sit in the shadow of the LA Galaxy for a long time, so this is a great opportunity to change that.
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Teams: Los Angeles Galaxy vs Los Angeles FC
Location: Dignity Health Sports Park
Time: Sunday, April 16 at 1:30 pm EST onwards
How to watch: Apple TV, Fox, and TSN2
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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