A mixed bag. That's probably the best summation of LAFC's third and final match against the Galaxy this season. It might even be the best way to describe the budding rivalry on its whole. Because after two thrilling - albeit disappointing from LAFC's perspective - matches, the third installment, a 1-1 draw, was uneven at best. And I'm not sure we learned anything new.
What we do know is both these teams have figured out how to inflict the maximum amount of damage on one another, but haven't been able to carry it out of the course of an entire match. We know that the biggest names in the rivalry didn't shy from the spotlight - Carlos Vela scored in all three matches, Zlatan Ibrahimović in two of three. And no lead is safe.
- LAFC 1-1 Galaxy
- 15' Zlatan Ibrahimović
- 51' Carlos Vela (PK) | Watch
Here are the takeaways from LAFC's 1-1 draw at the Galaxy:
LAFC Pinned Back Early
The Galaxy absolutely pilloried LAFC in the first 20 minutes of this match.
We're used to seeing LAFC get off to the fast start in these derbies. And for the first time in this rivalry, the Galaxy scored first. Had it not been for some very astute saves from Tyler Miller, the Galaxy might have been free and clear before the half-hour mark of this match.
Simple But Effective
There isn't much nuance to the Galaxy's approach. But it gets the job done.
Here's what Sigi Schmid wants his team to do. They want to push up on the opposing team's backline and create 1v1 matchups. Play with three in the back? The Galaxy will send three attackers to harass them. Play with four? Then they'll push four high up the pitch, right across your backline. Buildup isn't so important to them. What they want to do its get a player on the ball with enough time to look up and send it long towards one of the attackers matched up in one of those 1v1 situations. So when the Galaxy recycle possession, they aren't so much building from the back as they are buying time for their attackers to get close to members of the opposing team's backline.
Again, it's simple but effective. In the first half, the Galaxy won 27 duels to LAFC's 19. The Galaxy will sacrifice the ball to make you suffer, and they are so good at winning the second ball with the likes of Sebastian Lleget as de facto No. 10.
Dejan In Relief
Probably one of the toughest things to do in this sport is step into a derby off the bench.
Dejan Jaković had probably his best match as an LAFC player. His tackles were timely. He covered nicely for teammates. And he had some key blocks thanks to strong positioning. Replacing a center back in a match like this is never something a coach wants to do. But when Danilo Silva pulled up with tightness in his hamstring, Jaković stepped up big time with Ibrahimović absolutely salivating at the prospect of more goals.
The Big Swede wasn't able to find the net after Jaković's introduction, and was visibly frustrated by midway through the second half.
He didn't figure into the scoring tonight, but Diego Rossi was easily LAFC's best player.
The Uruguayan was fearless. And this came after his first real contribution to the match was thwarted by a bone-crunching late tackle from Rolf Feltscher after Rossi flew by him. Feltscher saw yellow, and Rossi continued to run right at the Galaxy defense.
He nearly set up Christian Ramirez for the equalizer in the first half at racing by Feltscher once again. And after cutting between two Galaxy defenders early in the second half, Rossi laid off to Vela, who was brought down in the penalty area - Vela converted the subsequent spot kick.
More matches than not as of late, Rossi has imposed himself. It was a key aspect of his game that Bob Bradley focused own with the 20-year-old. Regular performances like these are why LAFC brought the Uruguayan to MLS on a Designated Player contract.
Have To Like The Response
When you consider how the last two ended, you have to be encouraged by LAFC mental fortitude in this match. Even if it only resulted in one point.
LAFC were on the mat early in this one. But they picked themselves up, and were thriving towards the end. Vela was creating in dangerous areas and putting defenders under duress. Rossi, as mentioned earlier, had Galaxy players on their heels. Lee Nguyen, Benny Feilhaber, and Eduard Atuesta began combining passes around Galaxy players as they chased shadows. All of it was encouraging to see after what looked like a disastrous start.
And the bulk of the clear-cut opportunities in the second half were mostly in LAFC's favor. The response, in and of itself, was encouraging. While the Galaxy disrupted LAFC's style early, the Black & Gold didn't abandon their principles. They fought to forge a way to play their game, while standing up to the physical nature of the game. And again, they had chances to win it.
It's another step in the team's identity. Which, hopefully come playoff time, will be fully formed and ready for any adversity that comes its way.