With the MLS playoffs are right around the corner and with the regular season coming to a close, there is little time to lose focus. On Friday, one of the newest yet fiercest rivalries in the league came to a dramatic climax. LAFC who sit in third, and the LA Galaxy, who sit in 6th faced each other for the last time in the regular season. Neither team was at their strongest, with LAFC missing key players like Adama Diomande, Laurent Ciman and Mark Anthony Kaye and the the LA Galaxy missing the likes of Romain Alessandrini and the Dos Santos brothers, the match would be decided by pure willpower, a willpower the LA Galaxy started out more with.
The first half of the match was almost all Galaxy. Their passing was sharper than LAFC’s, as they were able to keep the ball for long stretches during the first half, but they were also beating LAFC to second balls and a determination to press LAFC whenever they held possession.
LAFC looked lost. The Black and Gold were making it far too easy for LA Galaxy attackers Ola Kamara and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to find space behind the defense. This nearly caused a nightmare start for LAFC in the 12th minute when Zlatan Ibrahimovic made a run into space behind the LAFC defense without being picked up by anyone. Ibrahimovic received the ball with a seasoned first touch and rocketed a shot towards the LAFC goal that was saved bravely by Tyler Miller, who put his entire body on the line to stop a sure goal. LAFC was safe for the time being.
Then, in the 15th minute, LAFC’s nightmare became a reality. The LA Galaxy’s Ola Kamara found space on the left wing of the box after a pass from Galaxy defender Ashley Cole. Kamara chipped the ball to the far post where a waiting Zlatan Ibrahimovic chested it down to his foot and poked the ball with the tip of his boot on the volley past Tyler Miller and then kicked off the goal line by LAFC recent signee Danilo Silva.
The play was too close to call for referee Jair Marrufo. So the play went to Video Review. Upon a closer look, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s attempt on goal crossed the line entirely as LAFC’s Danilo Silva was just a second late in kicking the ball off the line and the LA Galaxy were awarded the goal to put them up 1-0.
The remainder of the first half seemed to be all Galaxy.
In the 20th minute, Zlatan Ibrahimovic almost scored from 30 yards out, when he hit the post to the collective sigh of relief of LAFC and their faithful. LAFC struggled to gain and maintain possession of the ball in the midfield, losing most one-on-one battles with the Galaxy defense.
The second half witnessed a more resolute LAFC.
In just the 47th minute, Diego Rossi made a fantastic run down the left wing, leaving every Galaxy defender who faced him in his wake but could not get enough on his shot in the end to trouble the Galaxy’s keeper. Still, it was a bright spot for LAFC in an otherwise lacking performance up to that moment in the match.
In the 50th minute, LAFC winger Diego Rossi was causing the Galaxy all kinds of problems down the left wing. Rossi caught Carlos Vela making an overlapping run into the box and passed the ball into the path of a prowling Vela. As Vela received the ball by the end line, he was dragged down by Galaxy defender Perry Kitchen and referee Jair Marrufo awarded LAFC the penalty pointing to the spot. Carlos Vela converted it with ease to put the game at a 1-1 draw.
LAFC’s confidence grew as the match progressed. Holding possession in the midfield with more purpose than in the first half, making it easier to unlock the Galaxy’s defense. Their best chance of the match came in the 72nd minute when LAFC midfielder Eduard Atuesta threaded a ball through the Galaxy defense, finding Benny Feilhaber in open space. Feilhaber tried to be too fancy with his footwork trying to dribble past the keeper and losing a golden chance on goal in the process.
In the 84th minute, LAFC midfielder Lee Nguyen made a good run through the midfield, finding Latif Blessing in a pocket of space in the box. Blessing cut the ball quickly to create room away from the defender and shot the ball hastily narrowly missing the target over.
LAFC’s last good chance came in stoppage time in the 90th+2nd minute when Latif Blessing cut inside from the left wing and found Diego Rossi running into the box. Rossi shot the ball first time into a lunging challenge from the Galaxy’s Daniel Steres, who successfully blocked Rossi’s attempt on goal.
LAFC now trail in the El Tráfico series five points to two. They currently sit above the Galaxy in third place in the West, with their upcoming matches more vital than ever as the playoff push continues.
LAFC also parted ways with defender, Laurent Ciman, with Ciman confirming his departure on Tuesday via Twitter. Ciman, who served as LAFC’s first captain as well as scoring their first home goal in history will be missed, as LAFC continue to tweak their defense, they are in need of some defensive stability now more than ever.