The First El Trafico Recap
March 31st, 2018 Carson, CA --
In my preview for LAFC vs Galaxy, I said that this game had the potential to become a classic. Little did I know, it was going to become one of the greatest games in MLS history, but unfortunately, it became a classic for the other team in LA County. With so much to discuss for this game, I re-watched the game a few hours after the final whistle to try and figure out what went right and where it started to go off the rails.
First, let’s start with the good of the game. The first half was exactly what you wanted from a squad that is trying to prove they are legit and not a mirage from the last two games. The front line of Vela, Rossi, Ureña, and Blessing started placing pressure on the Galaxy right with the first whistle. The first goal by Vela (which was a BEAUTY!), was formed directly by the press. Even when they lost the ball, they went and got it back immediately, to which Vela got the ball back and curled it into the far corner of the net.
The second goal came from, again, a great frontline play. With Ureña running down the right side of the pitch, he pulls up, finds Rossi, who finds Vela. And Vela being a veteran of the game of football, takes his time to find the net. Vela was literally the only LAFC player in the box, while the Galaxy had 6(!) players trying to stop him. Vela never freaked out or hurried his shot, just took his time and placed the ball in its home.
An aspect that was great from the 1st half was the commit of the fast break. Rossi and Ureña had some great chances to keep on adding to the lead. The passes from Vela or Blessing were on target and dangerous, almost exactly what we saw during the Real Salt Lake game. Even though we never held a lot of possession, it was obvious that we were wearing the Galaxy down and making them commit our open field. Pardon the comparison, but it reminded me of Leicester City the year they won the Premier League. Never hold the possession long, take advantage of the press, and beat everyone with speed and a flawless counterattack.
Even though LAFC went into the break with a 2-0 lead, we still didn’t play our most flawless half. We moved laterally a lot, especially in the backfield. In the 20th minute, you can see the backline just passing the ball back and forth to one another, and the minute we pass it to our midfield, we lose the ball from either a bad pass or pressure from the Galaxy (this would come back to haunt us in the 2nd half). Thankful, we are going to be upgrading our midfield soon once André Horta shows up, but we need to try and find a way to Band-Aid it until then. Regardless, we spent a lot of time in the middle third and our attacking third for a majority of the 1st half. If we would have done that for the 2nd half, the Galaxy would be at home still crying.
All supporters, members, and fans thought that we would be able to wrap this game up. Even though FOX keep on droning on and on about Zlatan, we were in party mood, and right at the beginning of the 2nd half, it didn’t seem like it was going to let up! Right away, in the 48th minute, Ureña sprints from his defender as Blessing finds a great ball towards him. Again, LAFC find a way to press the opposite team with the counter, making them pay dearly.
Then it all fell apart.
Even though Galaxy didn’t score until the 61st minute, you could start to see the way LAFC was going to let them back into the game. Starting in the 53rd minute, the boys in black and gold started to let our rivals work with all the space in their attacking half. They stopped pushing towards the ball. There was so much room to work with that the Galaxy were able to start finding passes and lanes to go through. Once they scored, after the defense couldn’t get the ball out of the back, the intensity of the game turned on its head. The Galaxy had hope, and we were just trying to hold on for dear life.
Then he came on. That man from Sweden, who proclaims himself as God. Zlatan Ibrahimović came onto the pitch and made one of the most insane, all time debuts in any league around the world. LAFC was on their back heels as it was, somehow trapped in their own end, and the Galaxy just kept on throwing cross after cross after cross. The second and fourth goals were both crosses that caught us out. In total, we had 5 crosses, they had 29!
In the end, is there one thing that I can point my finger at that let us lose this game? No, there were multiple things. We gave more space, let them have lots of possession, abandoned our game strategy that worked in the first half, and let one of the most insane tying goals in MLS history. We became frazzled, had little to no shape, just trying to see out a draw in the dying embers of the game.
Thinking about this game, and looking ahead, I know that LAFC is going to be okay. Yeah, I’m dumbfounded on how we could lose a game after we were up by 3 goals. I’m confused as to why we changed our shape halfway through the second half. I’m really bummed out that of all the teams that would come back to beat us, it just had to be Carson. On the flip side, I’m not extremely worried about our form. Yes, we need to shore up the backline, because giving up 4 goals in a game is absurd, but I have a feeling this is going to be an anomaly. LAFC will come back from this game and become stronger. LAFC will come back hungrier. LAFC will come back more focused. This is not the end of LAFC, nor is it a speed bump, it’s a learning lesson, and you better believe we are going to be grow and be better.
Article: Andrew Doran for HeartofLAFC.com
Photography: Andrew D. Bornstein, Andrew Quirk, & Imad Bolotok