Editorial — The MLS is Back Tournament has already produced some of the league’s best matches, even before one of the most intense rivalries the league has to offer has taken the stage.
El Tráfico, Faux Tráfico, Los Angeles Derby.
The match with as many nicknames as goals scored writes another chapter tomorrow. However, this version of the derby will look vastly different. There will be no fans from either side, no beer showers or smoke flares. Just two teams, with a dislike for each other, looking to bounce back from a disappointing start.
MLS is Back: Los Angeles Derby Takes Center Stage
Both sides will be dealing with the absence of key players. For the Galaxy, they are without star midfielder, Jonathan Dos Santos, who underwent a surgical procedure prior to the start of the tournament. However, for LAFC, they are not only without the reigning league MVP, Carlos Vela, they now have to navigate injuries sustained in their opener against Houston.
Who’s In, Who’s Out
It appears as though LAFC will be without super sub striker Adama Diomande. Speaking to media via Zoom, head coach Bob Bradley spoke on the striker’s status.
“He’s had an MRI, there’s nothing major,” Bradley said. “He felt a little something in his foot but we’re hopeful that he’s going to be back in training in the coming days. I’m not sure what that means for the game against the Galaxy.”
Given how cautious LAFC have been historically with any player returning from injury, it’s doubtful that Diomande will be available for this derby.
Fans hoping to see new signing Andy Najar will have to wait a while longer. When asked when we could see Najar, Bradley said, “He’s in parts of training. We’re hopeful, but we’re also going to be conservative with Andy, given how long it’s been since he’s played a match.”
Again, given the history of LAFC, Najar may not see the pitch until the later rounds. That is, if LAFC make it out of the group.
"I didn't have too much time to think about it. I went in and wanted to take my opportunity."
Monday was just the beginning. Congrats on making your @MLS debut, @dmusovski. #LAFC pic.twitter.com/iFyv1ub0Es
— LAFC (@LAFC) July 16, 2020
What’s At Stake
For both sides, this match will be a must-win, not just for bragging rights, but for tournament survival. The Portland Timbers sit atop Group F with three points, after their defeat of the Galaxy. A loss, would effectively eliminate the Galaxy, who would have zero points after two matches. An LAFC loss, could do the same, leaving them with just one point, with a match against the Timbers looming.
It’s the hottest topic circulating LAFC right now, and frankly, has been all year. The struggles defensively have been worrying for a team that led the league in fewest goals allowed (37) last season. However, don’t expect too much change in personnel or any dramatic shift in tactics.
“Defending situations usually start where you have the ball” Bradley said. “In the first half there were a few transition moments… there were four to five moments, where in transition, we had to recover quickly.”
Bob Bradley has never been one to overreact to results, it’s what made LAFC the consistent success they are. While you shouldn’t expect to see an overhaul at the back, the midfield and passing within the attack will definitely be tightened up. Giving the likes of Chicharito and Cristian Pavon a clear break at goal is never a good idea.
With all that is going on in the world, it has been the heat and humidity that comes with Florida in July that has been the underlying story this tournament. While adding water breaks and avoiding afternoon kickoffs are good, it appears it still isn’t enough to combat the ridiculous sweltering summers that Florida is known for at this time.
Things were especially rough for goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer, who gave some insight when speaking to media.
“It was a big difference (the heat),” he said. “I lost a lot of body fluids. In the second-half (of the Houston match) I felt my legs were getting heavy. I was trying to drink for days in a row, but in the end, it didn’t help a lot.”
While not the biggest worry heading into the Los Angeles Derby, this will definitely be something to keep an eye on. Not just for Vermeer, but for everyone on the pitch.
This will be the toughest match in LAFC history, without a doubt. The Los Angeles Derby is a match that is insane, physical, often times a high scoring struggle. And that was with Carlos Vela in the team. This time, LAFC will be without both Vela, and likely Diomande, leaving them with fewer options in attack.
The first career goal from Brian Rodriguez will hopefully provide the boost needed for him, Diego Rossi and Bradley Wright-Phillips to carry the goal-scoring load. Though, even that may not be enough to fill the shoes left by El Capitan. This match will be close, but in the end, an LAFC win 2-1.
Saturday.#LAFCvLA | #MLSisBack pic.twitter.com/xiBHSfAuqy
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) July 15, 2020