A derby is a whole different beast.
Everything is elevated when you take on your closest rival. Emotions are magnified. Adrenaline takes over. A rush of blood to your head can be a good thing or your worst enemy. And mistakes are bound to happen.
The first rule when it comes to a derby: Anything can happen.
So you can throw form out the window when LAFC travel to face the Galaxy on Friday (7pm on ESPN). But there are a few things LAFC can do to heighten its chances in the derby.
Here are the Toyota Keys to the Match for LAFC at the Galaxy:
Win Second Balls
It's no secret Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a focal point for the Galaxy.
The home side will look to play through its big striker as much as possible. LAFC will hope to control the flow of passes to Ibrahimovic's feet by constricting space in the midfield. But they have to be wary of high, direct balls to the Swede.
Ibrahimovic has the strength to hold off defenders and the control to bring those balls down. But its the aftermath LAFC needs to be attentive to even when the Galaxy forward doesn't get clean control because runners like Ema Boateng and Uriel Antuna will be keying off the target striker. If the Galaxy can gain a foothold in LAFC's defensive third by winning the second ball from direct play, they'll have windows to play through the LAFC backline. On the flip side, LAFC's ability to recover those second balls would give the Black & Gold a firm hold of the match and frustrate the Galaxy attackers.
Passes In Midfield
Jonathan dos Santos has been pretty much a one-man band in central midfield for the Galaxy this season.
The Mexican international covers a lot of ground and is also tasked with helping build from the back. With the trio of Mark-Anthony Kaye, Latif Blessing, and Eduard Atuesta, LAFC needs to find pockets of space to force Dos Santos out of position. Passes between the three allow the Black & Gold to move as a unit up the pitch.
When those three are finding angles through the opposition, it also frees up the likes of Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi from ball-progression duties to making attacking runs into space. If the LAFC midfield is on the ball often by connecting passes together, they'll have ample opportunities to get the ball into the feet of their goalscorers in the final third.
Sharp On Set Pieces
In a match with slim margins, set pieces can be a lifeline.
An early goal off a corner kick didn't help the Galaxy much last match, but you can't spot your rival that kind of advantage in a derby. Goals like that can be momentum killers against the run of play and will bring the crowd back into the match.
The Galaxy obviously has a physical set of players that can be a nuisance in the air. LAFC will need to limit the set-piece opportunities the best they can in this match and be cognizant of their assignments in the few chances they must defend from the Galaxy.