A match of significance not just to the Los Angeles locals, but to every MLS viewer who knows how good a watch this match has been over the last few years. A matchup that has rarely disappointed, and one of the highest-scoring MLS fixtures in recent years. And while most of the big leagues like Premier League or La Liga are either already finished or getting there, LAFC took on LA Galaxy at the ESPN wide world of sports in Orlando Florida in the MLS is back tournament on 19/7/2020.
With no fans, no atmosphere, and the humid conditions of Orlando, the EL Trafico was very different and will be earmarked as the odd one out in the history of this fixture due to the nature of the situation the world has been pushed into. But the change of scenery, the lack of fans, the almost inexistent noise in the stadium did not result in a dull fixture as LAFC put 6 past LA Galaxy as they could only muster up 2 by the end of the final whistle.
With both sides, standout Mexicans in Carlos Vela and Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez unavailable due to various reasons, the onus will be on the rest of the team to step up to the task to snatch the desired result.
For LAFC, Pablo Sisniega started in goal with Tristian Blackmon, Dejan Jakovic, Eddie Segura, and Diego Palacios completing the back four (from right to left respectively).
Eduard Atuesta started in the CDM slot with Mark Anthony Kaye and Latif Blessing sitting in front of him in the middle of the park. Diego Rossi and Brian Rodriguez slotted out wide on the wings with Bradley Wright Phillips stationed through the middle.
On the other side of the pitch, David Bingham started in goal with Emiliano Insua, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Daniel Steres, and Rolf Feltscher completing the back four (from left to right respectively).
Perry Kitchen and Joe Corona started in central midfield with Emil Cuello and Julian Araujo starting ahead of them in a somewhat unconventional formation. Sebastian Lletget and Cristian Pavon started up top, with both of them playing a very different striker role compared to the conventional and modern number 9.
Spreading the pitch wide – LAFC
The game started for LAFC in the most acrimonious fashion as they were immediately on the backfoot with LA Galaxy winning the ball as soon as the game started and created a fair few chances in the first few minutes, with the intense press from LA Galaxy creating problems and forcing mistakes out of LAFC’s players.
The early goal conceded by them at the 5th minute could only mean it could get much worse if Galaxy maintained their system through the 90 minutes. They employed a system of compact defending at the back with the back four, being as narrow as possible and the wingers would trackback to aid defensively. They were totally opposite up top in terms of width, with the forwards and sometimes even the full-backs hugging the touchline to spread the pitch as much as possible.
The own goal conceded in the 5th minute was the result of sleepy defending and poor defensive decisions in terms of clearing it out of the danger zone and passing it out of the back as quickly as they could. Lletget crossed the ball hoping to find a Galaxy player coming into the box who could tap the ball into the net.
Instead, Latif Blessing poked the ball into his own net, in an attempt to clear the ball out of a grave situation. It was a catastrophe at the back with Galaxy looking like the team who wanted it more on every aspect in contention.
As the game continued and LAFC found time on the ball, they started to spread the pitch wide, with the full-backs their widest passing options and the wingers playing in the channels to support the attack.
The players would look to get in behind the Galaxy defence often but wouldn’t get many opportunities to comply with the same. They too employed the front foot press, with everyone from the striker to the defenders aiding the press.
With Galaxy stuffing up the middle of the park, they did not have many options other than to go long to change the point of attack or to try to breach their defence from a different angle by switching up play from one side of the pitch to the other. With the full-backs available as a wide passing option, they would often look to cross the ball into the box from which they could create a decent chance from the corner. From which they would eventually gain a way back into the match.
Bradley Wright Phillips was fouled inside the Galaxy box and LAFC were awarded a contentious penalty that would eventually be converted by Rossi as he levelled the scoreline in the derby. Phillips did make the most out of an unnecessary challenge by kitchen who did have his arms around him, which in context did obstruct Phillips from attempting to go for the ball.
After scoring the equalizer, LAFC settled down and pushed Galaxy into their own half making it hard for them to come out of their own half. Atuesta played as an unconventional destroyer with a good ability on the ball and relatively comfortable with both feet. and with a particularly high block, he was important to the team to get out of tricky situations when the ball was being chased down by the opposition.
Jakovic’s late challenge around the half-hour mark created an unexpected opportunity for Galaxy, as he conceded a penalty and a yellow card for his actions. Pavon missed the penalty and the rebound, but Sisniega was judged to have been off his line and went into the books and a retake of the penalty was awarded and this time, Pavon did not miss.
With LAFC behind in the game for the second time, Galaxy must have been feeling that this was their night to get one over their cross-town rivals. But as the half approached the end, Rossi popped up just in time to pull the game back on level terms with his second of the night just before the final whistle was about to go off. Bradley Wright Phillips’ shot was parried into the path of Rossi by Bingham who stroked it into the net.
The second half started for them just like the first one, on the backfoot, with Galaxy flying off the blocks just like they did in the first half, with the defence being shaken up by Galaxy’s press and tenacity. But as the half started to settle down again, LAFC were able to find their feet again and get a firm grip on the game. They had also matured into the game, with the second half seeing more opportunistic passes being played by LAFC players through the middle, with which they had struggled in the first half.
With the 5th goal of the game being scored by Bradley W. Phillips, for the first time in the game, LAFC lead LA Galaxy, and this would prove to be the turning point of the game, as they would start to dominate Galaxy more consistently, as the goal had sparked them into life, as they would get more adventurous with their passing, and the team started to work together, cohesively and find a way to stifle the opposition by a more consistent and properly set up press system as they started to phase Galaxy out of the game.
They still needed to mature their passing and decision making on the ball, but they scored 3 more in the last 15 mins to put the game to bed and beyond doubt and out of reach for LA Galaxy to even attempt a comeback. LAFC were cutting galaxy open and were creating chances left right and centre as it became a relatively comfortable walk in the park for them by the time the final whistle blew.
An effective substitution from Bob Bradley contributed to the demise of LA Galaxy as 3 of the 5 substitutes directly had a hand in the last two goals, with Ginella getting two exists and Mounir scoring a gorgeous long ranger.
They conjured an XG of 3.84 and outperformed it excellently by scoring 6. LAFC had the lion’s share of possession with just above 60% and took 17 shots and managed to keep an impressive 12 of them on target which looks really good, when read with the fact that they scored 6, implying they converted 50% of their shots on target. They committed 9 fouls and conceded 3 yellow cards in the match. LAFC had an impressive passes per defensive actions stats, as they only allowed 4.4 passes. With their plentiful possession, they could create adequate chances which is signified by the 7 key passes throughout the match.
Press! Press! Press! – LA Galaxy
If the game was supposed to end within the first 10 minutes, LA Galaxy would have ran LAFC out of the field with their press and tenacity being almost unplayable for the opening phase of the game. And when Lletget contributed to the first goal inside 5 minutes with the deflection off of Blessing giving them an early lead, it almost proved that they had what it takes to go toe to toe with LAFCs system.
They started on the front foot, their full-backs would fly high up the pitch to provide width to their shape and system, it seemed perfect, almost too perfect. And then reality struck when Kitchen gave away an unnecessary penalty which levelled the scoreline.
The two forwards had the freedom to roam around and find space to aid the attack which made it extremely difficult to mark them or keep track of them. Their fluidity was the greatest threat to LAFC as both of them were directly responsible for the two goals they would score in the match.
As they had planned to stuff up the midfield to deny LAFC any opportunity to play through them, they used a zonal press along with it, to keep LAFC out wide where they had little to no press employed.
And since they conceded the equalizer, they seemed to have shaken up, as they would start having spells without the ball and looked uninspired in terms of the decisions they made on the pitch. The press had started to betray them as they would leave spaces open in an attempt to win the ball back which would allow LAFC to play incisive quick passes through them creating chances at will.
But they themselves were capable of slick exchange of passes as Cristian Pavon started to assert himself in the game and became more and more threatening to the LAFC defence. He started taking men on, winning free-kicks and was crucial to the team gaining back their 1-goal leas in the game, as he would score the retake after the first penalty was judged to be invalid due to Sisniega’s offence.
They used a medium block which meant there was not much space to run in behind for the opposition. their defence looked shaky but were doing enough to stay in the game till they conceded their second, as that goal highlighted why they haven’t been able to keep a clean sheet in their 15 previous games. Lack of attentivity afforded Rossi space to comfortably score his second.
They started the second half flying off the blocks again, but were on the backfoot 5 minutes into the half, and had started using long balls to bypass the opposition press. The game started to open up for both sides as the two teams found it relatively comfortable to play through each other, and create chances, but LA Galaxy couldn’t create enough quality chances to emphasize their hold on the game or improve it.
With their individual defending often brought into questioning, it is easily explainable as the 4 goals after half time were clear defensive lapses and their inability to defend to the task at hand.
LA Galaxy slowly would go on to lose their grip on the game and were desperate for the final whistle as the game went into the final 10 minutes. With flashes of individual brilliance not enough to keep the game contentious.
Their press faded into obscurity, resignation in their way of playing, and the inability to find a way back into the match cost them the game, which would put a lot of pressure on their manager, Guillermo Schelotto.
They mustered up an XG of 1.34 and fairly outperformed it by scoring two goals. They didn’t have enough possession as they averaged just 39% throughout the match which explains the average passing accuracy of 73%. And the 6 shots attempted almost outlines how much behind they were in comparison to their rivals, and they only managed to keep just 3 of those attempted shots on target. The lack of possession meant there were few quality chances which is represented by just 4 key passes across the whole match, a very pale figure. Their players had committed 16 fouls in the match. And they 11.8 passes per defensive actions (PPDA) which contradicts their pressing style, but it was due to the lack of the ball with Galaxy players.
A game that displayed both flair and tactics and a mouth-watering goal-fest, it only spells what may be on the road for both teams who are heading in contrasting directions. With 7 yellow cards dished out by the referee, the sides were fairly ill-disciplined, as the match was mired by tackles and cheap free-kicks.