The game in 200 words (or less): If at first (and second and third and fourth and fifth) you don’t succeed, try try again. Los Angeles FC, on their sixth time of asking, have finally beaten the LA Galaxy and did so in the highest-stakes meeting of the LA rivals — Thursday’s Western Conference semifinal at Banc of California Stadium, by the final score of 5-3. The game, as it tends to do when these sides meet, swung wildly in all directions. LAFC went 2-0 up through Carlos Vela, but it was 2-1 less than 60 seconds later. Zlatan Ibrahimovic set up the Galaxy’s first goal and scored their second just before the hour mark. Diego Rossi and Adama Diomande hit back in quick succession in the 66th and 68th minutes. Rolf Feltscher drew the Galaxy back to within a goal in the 77th, but Diomande put the game to bed three minutes later. Built up as the most hyped game in recent, if not all of, MLS history, LAFC versus LA Galaxy lived up to and surpassed the hype once again.
Three things we learned
- Big game, big stars: Vela showed up early and often, while Ibrahimovic arrived fashionably late and with a bit of assistance up the stairs to the main level of the party. Vela was sensational and highly influential once everyone in Black and Gold found their footing after a rocky opening 10 minutes.
There was also this stunning through ball from Ibrahimovic to set up Cristian Pavon for the Galaxy’s first goal. That was just about it from the big Swede, though, as he was forced deeper and deeper into midfield to get on the ball. Vela and Rossi were involved in absolutely everything, from winning the ball back on the press, to springing the counter-attacks, to setting up goals and finishing them off. At the end of the day, the youth and mobility of LAFC’s stars won out against the mega-stardom of the Galaxy’s main man.
- VAR (What is it good for): It sure looks like Brian Rodriguez is narrowly offside as Latif Blessing, who impacted this game in a dozen different ways, plays the through ball prior to Rodriguez setting up the easiest goal of Vela’s season. It’s close, no doubt about it, but what better time than a decisive moment in a pivotal playoff game to make sure the call is correct with 100 percent certainty?
It should be noted that it’s always possible the camera angle paints a somewhat murky picture, but if video review is a tool made available so referees can get potentially missed calls correct, why not use it when you’ve got a potentially missed call that doesn’t require any interpretation of the rule?
- Defense optional: If you expected anything different from these teams, given their previous five meetings which averaged — averaged — 4.8 goals per game, that is entirely your own fault. Defending has been the Galaxy’s achilles heel for going on five seasons now, so much so that the jokes almost aren’t even worth making anymore. They were always going to lose to LAFC at some point — it couldn’t go on forever — and it was almost certainly going to be largely down to their own incompetent defending, coupled with LAFC’s obvious brilliance, that did them in. LAFC were a far better defensive side in the regular season — much of that was always down to the amount of possession they held and their suffocating press, so it stands to reason they’ll be fine in the back half as these playoffs wear on. If, however, some of the goals LAFC conceded weren’t just a one-off, the final three games are suddenly far from the foregone conclusion they were 48 hours ago.
Man of the match: Carlos Vela
Goalscorers: Vela (16′, 40′), Pavon (41′), Ibrahimovic (55′), Rossi (66′), Diomande (68′, 80′), Feltscher (78′)