Carlos Vela scored first and last, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s hat trick in the middle stole the show and grabbed all three points for the Galaxy, playing undoubtedly their best game of the season.
LAFC, the assured first-place team playing a fundamentally sound, fun style of soccer, were second-best in spite of the basic stats mostly favoring them on the night.
If you watched the “We are LAFC” documentary of the 2018 season, you’ll remember Bob Bradley giving Andre Horta an earful after a bad game. On Friday, captain Carlos Vela may or may not have gotten the personal critique from Bradley, but he also got a speech on the field postgame.
Bradley was straightforward in his assessment of LAFC’s shortcomings after the game.
“Overall their intensity took us out of our game,” Bradley told reporters. “In most ways, we weren’t good in any part of the game. Nowhere near good enough, but the intensity changed the game in that regard, and we didn’t deal well with it, which we expected a derby.”
Both Bradley and Vela were asked about their conversation on the field after the final whistle, and neither really revealed much, but Vela used it as an opportunity to discuss turning the page.
“Well we know it was a hard loss against a team of the [same] city, but talked about how we are still in first, and how we have to keep that place. We have to forget this game and continue at our level. We want to be leaders, and we have to keep pushing, keep working, and there’s no other way to be a good team,” Vela said.
Bradley’s message was similar.
“Look, this is the next step for us as a team, and on a night like that, maybe the football doesn’t come easy at the beginning, but there’s an intensity that matches their’s. We get through stretches where maybe for periods there’s no real great football, but we don’t give anything away, and then little by little we grab a hold of the game and we deal with it, and we start to put it more on our terms, but on the night we weren’t able to do that.”
LAFC remain in first-place with a nine-point cushion at present, but the road features plenty of challenges ahead: A second all-time meeting against Atlanta United next week, a team that beat them 5-0 last year, a second El Trafico meeting next month against the Galaxy, and plenty more besides. Even the best seasons feature some kind of adversity, and this is LAFC’s moment. We’ll see how quickly they can regroup to get back on track after a tough, tough loss.
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