LAFC are trying to establish themselves as serious contenders in MLS. If they are, then they should sweep past a weakened and wobbling LA Galaxy on Friday night in the third and final instalment of El Trafico.
Los Angeles FC have enjoyed a wonderful first season in MLS. Although hopes were tentatively high at the start of the year, with their offseason spending, new stadium and experienced playing and management squad leading some to predict a burgeoning first season, I am not sure how many saw this immediate success coming.
As the season enters its final stretch, LAFC are right in the thick of the Western playoff race, currently sitting in third position, chasing down leaders, FC Dallas.
And now they host local rivals, LA Galaxy, in the third and final El Trafico of the season. Friday night’s instalment of rivalry week is sure to be a hotly contested affair. The Galaxy are only three places behind LAFC and will be hoping to claw some ground back on a team that they have had the better of so far this season.
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A dramatic 4-3 victory was followed up by a 2-2 draw, both of which featured remarkable Galaxy comebacks in the second half. It was undoubtedly LAFC that chucked the points away. How precious they would be now. So Bob Bradley’s side, heading into the StubHub Center would love nothing more than to end the series with a victory, put a major dent into their rivals’ playoff hopes, and establish themselves as contenders for the West and the MLS Cup.
Even given the prior results and the on-paper talent that the Galaxy possess, LAFC should be sweeping past them, if they are indeed to be considered as true contenders on the same level as Sporting KC and Dallas. Yes, the Galaxy are sitting above the playoff line and are certainly in a position to secure a playoff berth this season, but this is still a team that LAFC should be dispatching them with little trouble, if they are really the team that some suggest they are.
The Galaxy are coming off two defeats in their last four matches, the most recent of which was a five-goal thumping at the hands of the Seattle Sounders, and have not won a match in August. This is a team in truly terrible form. In fact, on current form alone, they may be one of the worst in MLS.
Without using them as an excuse, the injuries that the Galaxy have suffered have been disastrous. Five starters missed the match against Seattle. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was one of those. He is expected to return. But they will still be without both dos Santos brothers, Romain Alessandrini and Michael Cain, all of which would start were they available. This is a very weak Galaxy team indeed.
And that brings me back to the original point: LAFC need to be putting teams like this away with ease if they can be named as a true contender. They still have some convincing to do to be mentioned alongside Atlanta, the New York clubs and the leaders in the West. But a big win here would be the perfect statement to do so.