Somewhere in the multiverse, there's an alternate 2019 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs timeline.
Just go with me on this for a second. Because in this alternate reality, much of what we know now is true. LAFC still finished the season as the Supporters' Shield winners. Carlos Vela won the Golden Boot with a hat trick on Decision Day. MLS witnessed the greatest regular season of all-time thanks to LAFC's 72-point season. And so on and so on...
But this universe branches off into its own timeline with LAFC's Western Conference Semifinal opponent. In this scenario, LAFC never faces the Galaxy. They prevail against Minnesota instead. Then go on to win the conference final and win again at home in the MLS Cup final.
And somehow, for all the joy that would bring, it doesn't seem right. Does it?
It had to be the Galaxy.
Here's a preview of LAFC's Western Conference Semifinal against the Galaxy:
LAFC vs Galaxy | Oct. 24 at 7:00pm PT
Where To Watch
TV: ESPN, ESPN Deportes
Radio: ESPNLA 710, KFWB 980
The Galaxy stumbled a bit down the stretch, forcing Guillermo Barros Schelotto's team to hit the road in the first round of the 2019 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. Goals by Sebastian Lleget and Jonathan dos Santos earned the Galaxy the only road win of the weekend after home teams had won all five of the previous first-round matches.
What The Team Is Saying
Bob Bradley on why facing the Galaxy is important in this playoff run: "When we talk about what we wanted to be from the start - what kind of team, our football, being successful, everything that's happened in two years - yeah, it had to be the Galaxy. Because to get where we want to be now, winning big games on big stages and doing it with the kind of football we've been able to do a lot of the course of the last two years, that's spot on. I think it creates a big game and everybody here is excited."
Jordan Harvey on finding out LAFC would face the Galaxy: "From the players and staff, we wouldn't want it any other way. This is the path that we should take and that we need to take. And we're looking forward to it."
Projected LAFC Starting XI
(4-3-3): Tyler Miller; Jordan Harvey, Walker Zimmerman, Eddie Segura, Steven Beitashour; Eduard Atuesta, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Latif Blessing; Diego Rossi, Carlos Vela, Brian Rodríguez.
What To Watch For
Selection Decisions: After going through the season relatively unscathed on the injury front, LAFC had two injury scares on the eve of the playoffs. Walker Zimmerman was removed from LAFC's final regular-season match after a nasty head-to-head clash. The center back suffered a concussion but has recently returned to full training. Midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye pulled up six minutes into Canada's 2-0 win over the U.S. with an injury to his right leg just a week before LAFC's first playoff match. Kaye is still listed as day-to-day but could be available for selection. While forward Adama Diomande was reinstated by MLS and is available for selection after being cleared from the league's Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health program.
It's About To Get Loud: We've seen derby matches at the Banc before. And we've seen a playoff match at the Banc before. But we've never seen a derby in the playoffs at the Banc. The best atmosphere in MLS is about to get turned up to 11. I'd recommend being in your seat as soon as gates open because the show is going to start well before kickoff.
Do What You Do Best: In five matches with the Galaxy, we've yet to see LAFC maintain a 90-minute performance. Much of that is down to the Black & Gold's rivals stepping it up a notch in the derby. But we've also seen LAFC control large swaths of matches against the Galaxy by playing the style of football they've exhibited in much of the Club's two seasons. A lot of the focus will be on the midfield. The Galaxy have sold out to stop LAFC's midfield trio from finding easy inside passes. Bob Bradley's team has to be prepared and focused when the speed of the match picks up and space gets tight. It's not about changing, it's about doing what you do best even better when the pressure is on. That's the mentality of the best teams in the world. That's the mentality LAFC needs to get over this hump and into the next round.