Tough Loss for LA Football Club Against Galaxy
Play Host to Atlanta United FC Friday
July 25, 2019
LAFC may own the league in 2019 but the L.A. Galaxy own the city. LAFC has little time to lick its wounds following last Friday's 3-2 discouraging intercity grudge loss to Zlatan Ibrahimovic (and the L.A. Galaxy) at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson. The Black and Gold will host current MLS Cup Champion, Atlanta United FC, this Friday, July 26, 7:30 p.m. at Banc of California Stadium.
Atlanta United arrives with a modest two-game win streak and three wins, one loss and one draw in its last five MLS matches. Their last two wins were at Mercedes Benz Stadium where they enjoy the league's third-best home record at 8-1-3. However, the Five Stripes, the Eastern Conference's second place team, have a very subpar 3-7-0 record on the road.
Atlanta United is led by star forward, Josep Martinez, who is tied for second in MLS scoring with Ibrahimovic at 16 goals through Week 20. Even at their brisk pace they trail LAFC forward and leading MVP candidate Carlos Vela who has scored 21 goals in 20 appearances. LAFC still leads the Supporters' Shield race with 46 points, ahead of Philadelphia Union with 39 points, the Galaxy (37) and Atlanta (36).
El Trafico 4 against the Galaxy last Friday turned into the Zlatan Primetime Show following an early 4th minute penalty kick conversion by Vela. Ibrahimovic hammered home a beauty in the 8th minute near the top of the penalty box off after a chest stop, one-touch self-pass into a right foot lazar shot. The stunning goal tied the match at 1-1 but carried much more weight into the evening.
"Today was a different game. Today was about a rival game, two teams from the same city," said Ibrahimovic. "And obviously we need to get this attitude for every game. Last game before this one was very poor, was probably the worst game we did. And today was probably the best game we did."
"Overall their intensity took us out of our game," said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley. "In most ways, we weren't good in any part of the game. Nowhere near good enough, but the intensity changed the game in that regard, and we didn't deal well with it, which we expected a derby."
Even though LAFC were controlling time of possession in the first half they were clearly getting beat in duels and tackles won. Passes from their usually effective midfielders: Latif Blessing, Eduard Atuesta and Mark-Anthony Kaye were also missing their mark and tempo. The Galaxy's physical style kept LAFC's progressive style off-balanced throughout the contest.
"I don't think we did a good job of handling first balls, and balls that he's able to bring down. We didn't do a good job of that, and again, that's one of his strengths," said LAFC defender Walker Zimmerman.
Ibrahimovic increased the pressure early in the second half with one of his classic headers on a lob pass from defender Diego Polenta. LAFC defender Jordan Harvey could only push Zlatan and watch the ball find the back of the net past goalkeeper Tyler Miller. It was little consolation that Miller had made a number of excellent saves early on just to keep LAFC in the game.
Zimmerman: "Tyler had two big saves early and then after that kind of nothing but the goals. Again, just being a little more aggressive, maybe stepping up a bit sooner, trying to block those shots. But yeah, frustrating match for sure."
Ibrahimovic: "When the ball comes in the box I try to stay focused. And I attack the ball because I know I will win the headers and I'm strong there. Since I came to MLS I've scored more goals with the head than with the feet. I never scored as many goals with my head until I came here. "
The then-expected hat-trick came from Ibrahimovic's left-footed strike at the top of the circle in the 70th minute. And it brought the house down at Dignity Park, leaving the Black and Gold and the strong presence of their 3252 supporters group wondering when the tide was going to change in this very young yet intense derby. The Galaxy now have a 2-0-2 edge after four encounters and bragging rights to boot.
Vela was able to get his two-goal brace in the final minute of stoppage time, cleanly bookending his goals around Zlatan's unforgettable performance. "We have to forget this game and continue at our level. We want to be leaders, and we have to keep pushing, keep working, and there's no other way to be a good team," said Vela.
Bradley: "We didn't have enough guys that had really good games. But you know again in the way the game went, their intensity, the physical part of the game, we expected that, because that's what you get in derbies and that's where we've got to still grow and get better."
Zlatan reiterated his self-confidence at the end of the postgame conference: "I believe so much in myself. I have a bullet-proof mind and when I go out there I know what I'm able to do. And I do it good. And I do it perfect."
The rematch, El Trafico 5, at Banc of California Stadium on Sunday, August 25, 7:30 p.m. promises to further ramp up the intensity and the rivalry between the two Los Angeles franchises. Tickets are going fast.