Can't win a big one

Some call it El Trafico. Others called it Classico Angelino. And some just want to call it the LA Derby or the Battle of Angels. Regardless of the name, this game never disappoints. Except for LAFC.

In yet another game against the Galaxy where LAFC took the early lead, they let the moment of the match overwhelm them and allowed that big striker from Sweden to show why he is one of the most feared strikers in the league.

Let’s break down the worst loss of the season with a new 3252 breakdown.

3 things that went well

Scrambling defense

LAFC just didn’t have it tonight. Outside of the first five minutes of the match, LA was chasing the Galaxy the rest of the game. The team from Carson had better chances, had better possession, and better shots at goal. One of the few bright spots LAFC had though was the amount of defending when the ball was pinging around the box. LAFC kept on throwing their bodies anytime the Galaxy had a chance to shot towards goal. The number of balls that the defense stopped before they got to goal was one of the reasons that this game stayed close. 

No red cards

This game’s a proper derby. There is always going to passion on both sides of the ball. Fouls are going to be harder, 50-50 balls are going to have more arms flailing in them, and players are going to be hit on and off the ball more. This game had all the above and then some. Luckily for LAFC, no one got a red card which would disqualify them next week against Atlanta United. Only three yellows were shown to LAFC, compared to five for the Galaxy. LAFC has been one of the most disciplined teams in MLS and they showed why in this game.

LAFC finding another gear with their substitutions

The Black & Gold were trying really hard to find a way to get back into the game. Finally, Bob Bradley made a change to swap Mark-Anthony Kaye with Lee Nguyen and Jordan Harvey with Mohamed El-Munir. Nguyen right away started to make some positive passes and crosses to both Diomande and Rossi, allowing for more space at the top of the box. El-Munir was able to keep pace with everyone from the LA Galaxy and allowed for some overlapping with Rossi. While it never really panned out for LAFC, it was positive to see how the team knew they needed to change their shape and actually did so with some positive results. 

2 things that need to be worked on

Being calm at the beginning of big matches

As I was watching the pre-game program on ESPN, Taylor Twellman was asked who this game meant more for, either the Galaxy to make up ground against LAFC, or LAFC who do not have a “big match” win to their name. Twellman made the argument that yes, it was a big game for the Galaxy and their season was holding in the balance, but LAFC needed this win more. Losing in the playoffs at home last season and losing in the quarterfinal at home three weeks ago and showed that LAFC is struggling to get over the hump. Twellman rightly said that LAFC will need to get over the hump soon if they are going to have a chance to win the MLS Cup. While the team did score in the first three minutes of the match, LAFC ended up chasing the rest of the night. Like against Portland, they just never looked totally sharp and lacked that killer instinct to calm the nerves and finish off a game.

Passing and moving the ball

When LAFC can’t pass, they can’t get anything going. While the Galaxy deserves credit for keeping its shape during the course of the game, LAFC just couldn’t move the ball. The best midfield in MLS struggled at times to hold onto possession and get the ball towards Diego Rossi or Adama Diomande. LAFC looked confused as to why there were getting so much pressure early. They were not able to find space anywhere and therefore, lost all chances of getting the ball upfield. 

5 key moments of the match

Carlos Vela gets a penalty and converts

Before anyone was able to settle into their seats (as if anyone actually sat down during this game), Vela was able to win a penalty on the endline of the box. The Galaxy keeper, David Bingham, tried for a weird slide tackle which caught all of Vela and only a little of the ball. Not the greatest of plays from Bingham, but it was a foul and it was in the box. Even after a long time, Vela was able to coolly convert the shot into the box left of the net. Vela was off the mark and LAFC starting the game sprinting. 

Tyler Miller saves 3 good shots all back-to-back-to-back

For the first time in LAFC’s history, there is actually a goalie competition. While Tyler Miller was away at the Gold Cup representing the United States, LAFC looked to Pablo Sisniega to take over the duties between the posts. Sisniega more than showed why he should be in the conversation to being the number one for the Black & Gold over the month. With Miller back from national duty, Bradley choose to reinstate him as the number one. A lot of fans and pundits wondered if that was the right call. Even tonight, I was wondering if it was the right call.

Short answer: Yes. 

In the first half alone, Miller made four insane saves to keep LAFC in the game. The fourth save, a flying dive to his left was a thing of beauty. Does Sisniega make all those saves? Yeah, maybe. But Miller ended up being the brick wall and backline leader that the Black & Gold desperately needed. 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scores a golazo to open his scoring

What is with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and this game? Exactly like last season in the first game between the Galaxy and LAFC, Ibrahimovic ends up scoring an insane goal. In this game, Ibrahimovic was able to control a ball kicked up from the midfield, juggle it over Eduard Atuesta, and unleash a cracker of a shot. There are only a handful of players in the world that would be able to do that and Ibrahimovic is one of them. In eight minutes, this game was officially insane. 

Giancarlo Gonzalez with a game-saving tackle 

Into the second half, Ibrahimovic scored to secure his brace. LAFC had to start chasing the game in order to get onto level terms, but that wasn’t coming easily. As mentioned above, LAFC just couldn’t find passing lanes and were struggling to hold onto the ball. Finally though, LAFC was finding space on the wings of the pitch and was getting the ball into the middle of the field. On two occasions, once with Vela and once with Latif Blessing, Giancarlo Gonzalez was able to make a game-saving tackle in the box to get the ball away from a swinging foot. Gonzalez did again with Rossi when Rossi was going to be able to run free in the middle. Without Gonzalez, I’m sure LAFC gets a second goal easier in the half and would have a chance to draw or win the game. 

Ibrahimovic gets his hat-trick

The Galaxy was looking to find some way to finish off the game. LAFC was driving and threatening over and over. Finally, the Galaxy got a breakaway and they made the most of it. Ibrahimovic got the ball at the top of the box, took a couple of dribbles to the side, and unleashed a scorcher from the top of the box. He knows that LAFC wasn’t going to close down on him, so he took at the space available to place his perfect shot. The nail met the coffin. 

2 star players of the game

Tyler Miller

There is going to be a lot of debate about who deserves the number one spot between the posts. While that is a legitimate conversation, Miller did everything in his power to keep LAFC in this game. While Vela will get the praise for two goals and carrying the team on his back, Miller did a great job at keeping LAFC only a goal down. His only mistake was the second goal from Ibrahimovic, but other than that, he held his own. 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Ibrahimovic talked all week about he is the best player in MLS. He is the Ferrari and everyone is a Fiat. He was playing in Europe at age 29 while Vela is playing in MLS. It just went on and on and on. 

And he backed it up.

While Vela is still showing why he is one of the best players in the league, Ibrahimovic also showed why he is one too. A hat-trick in any derby will win player of the match honors. The performance by Ibrahimovic will be one for the highlight-reels for the rest of the season. 

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You can call a game a derby, especially when they are only 13 miles apart. But can you call an opponent a rival if you’ve never beat them before? 

LAFC is going to have a lot of soul searching before their next game on Friday against Atlanta United. The team is at the part of the season that will either make the Supporters Shield a cakewalk, or it’s going to become a title run with other teams. 

Andrew DoranComment