Ibra, Vela light up El Trafico
Geographic domination. The right to gloat in your local proximity. The gratification your team hindered your closest rival's ambition, simultaneously furthering your own. That's what local derbies are all about. Los Angeles, California is no exception to such fascinating contests. LA Galaxy, the city's original team, welcome the hotshot LAFC.
This isn’t another MLS tie. This is something bigger. Los Angeles is quite simply the place for football in the USA. While history seems like the wrong word to describe US soccer, it’s certainly the most applicable when referring to the recent surge in California.
Los Angeles isn’t void from other sports. Yet the city's flagship, the LA Lakers succumbed to a dreadful fate in the last five years. Other franchises haven’t celebrated much success, either. The LA Dodgers made the World Series on the previous two occasions but struck out twice. They hadn't got as far prior to that for 29 years. In such time, football had its way with Los Angeles.
David Beckham potentially moved to America too soon, as he could have still played in Europe. To arrive at LA Galaxy in 2007, the former England captain knocked Real Madrid to the side. Leaving the Galacticos for a club hardly anybody knew was puzzling. Even the most militant American who'd neither drunk tea nor laughed at Monty Python turned their head in bewilderment. 'Why has the world's most recognisable footballer come to play in California?'
Beckham, however, knew his intention. He played a big role in starting something special. Twelve major titles later, LA Galaxy are one of MLS' most decorated teams. They've built up a following outside the US. Not long ago they held open try-out sessions in Europe. Barack Obama has even been pictured with the side; a credit to the sport’s growing popularity.
Add in the fact four members of the successful USWNT are from California, including LA-born Christen Press, as well as another four in the men’s national team, the state contributes a lot to the US game. Popularity is passed down from international level to domestic.
Last year another club emerged to capitalise on the area's football fortunes. On debut, Los Angeles FC finished well in the league season before falling at the first play-off hurdle. A good start made better for LAFC by outperforming the long-standing Galaxy by some margin. They did, though, lose the primary LA derby, 4-3.
Kick-off for the two sides' next clash is only eight hours away. They meet at the Dignity Health Sports Park (yes, that's its real name).
LA Galaxy can't just brush off the newcomers. Claiming their clashes with fellow Californian outfit San Jose Earthquakes are both more significant and well charged won't wash. First, they've already lost that particular derby this year. More importantly, LAFC have made themselves too much a thorn in their proverbial side. The newer franchise currently sit atop the Western Conference and can boast a realistic claim of being MLS' best team right now.
To help turn the tide, Galaxy manager Guillermo Barros Schelotto must lift his charges. Their last ten league games have all ended without stalemate. They've won only four of those. The Argentine head honcho needs the same fortune he had at Boca Juniors when winning the league title two years ago. Lose to LAFC and the gap between the two increases to 15 points.
The tippet which may swing this match in LA Galaxy’s favour is that in this derby's short history, LAFC are yet to taste victory. Galaxy won the first game, then the next two were score draws.
For LAFC, it’s business as usual. Bob Bradley has got his engine in tune after a particularly poor drive out in Swansea followed by other tales of woe. Now fully geared up, the Bradleymobile hums along the winner's highway. He's at the wheel, with his co-pilots lending a helping hand.
Carlos Vela, a former Arsenal misfit, has scored more goals in Hollywood than his entire run in North London. The Mexican has netted 19 times so far this campaign. Diego Rossi isn't bad, either. The young Uruguayan has 11 goals himself.
In stark contrast to their opponents, LAFC players are enjoying their football at present. Five wins in the last six league matches means fans are relishing matchdays. When better to get their first LA derby win?
Expect goals aplenty in this contest. The quartet containing MLS' current four top scorers is three-quarters LA-based. Notching 43 times between them proudly stand Vela, Rossi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
You may know of the Swede? It will be Ibra-like for Galaxy's striker to produce a game-changing moment.