The two teams that played the first match between LAFC and the Galaxy no longer exist. The Clubs are, of course, still here. But it's been 17 matches and nearly four months since these two teams played in a 4-3 win for the Galaxy at StubHub center. So much has changed since then. New players have arrived. Systems and formations have been implemented, and changed again. Both teams have struggled, and then risen up the Western Conference table.
So throw all the takeaways from the first match out the window. The rematch is on an island of its own. Here are the Toyota Keys to the Match as LAFC hosts the Galaxy on Thursday:
Stop Zlatan From Passing
Most people would say if Zlatan Ibrahimović is passing, then you're probably in pretty good shape. Seems to make sense, but I don't hold that assumption and neither does Bob Bradley.
Talking to reporters today, Bradley noted how underrated Zlatan is as a passer. And we saw it last week against Philly when the Union center backs dropped off Zlatan and he picked out Ola Kamara for the Galaxy's first goal. Teams can be so fixated on not getting beat by Zlatan that they drop back and look to just maintain their shape when he has the ball. But if you create space and ball watch with Zlatan, he can carve you up, because he has an eye for the killer pass in the offensive third. So you've got to get close to Zlatan and challenge him. If you sit back and allow the big Swede the time and space to look up field, then you've already lost that battle.
Take Advantage Of Opportunities
Don't think I'm giving out any secrets in saying the Galaxy's backline is susceptible. But they've been better on this recent run they are on.
The defending is still a bit haphazard and last ditch. But it's getting the job done, because teams are getting into dangerous areas but not finishing. LAFC has been vulnerable at times after long spells of great football that don't translate to goals. The team has to convert the advantages created on the field into advantages on the scoresheet. Without that reward, more often than not, the energy spent and spaces created result in the opposing side getting something from the match. LAFC can't afford that with Zlatan and Ola Kamara lurking.
Find Vela In the Offensive Third
Another somewhat obvious key: get the ball to your most creative player. But what I really mean by this is find Carlos Vela in the offensive third more than the buildup. When LAFC is struggling, Vela tends to drop deeper to seek the ball. While it allows him more chances with the ball at his feet, it also puts him into more congested areas that he has to battle through. However Bradley structures his midfield, they will be tasked with connecting passes to move the team up the field in possession and allow Vela to stay high up the pitch. If they can maintain control of the match that way, and have Vela making the last pass or the recipient of the final ball, LAFC will have a better chance of collecting all three points on Thursday.