LAFC are in the business end of the season, and they face an immediate elimination game (spoiler alert: They’re all elimination games now) with a rivalry clash against the LA Galaxy on Thursday at The Banc.
For that game and, if they advance, beyond, LAFC need to step up. No more dress rehearsals, no more trying stuff, it’s obviously win or the season’s over.
It will take a whole lineup, a whole squad, to beat the Galaxy and keep the march going, but now is the time to see the people who know what to do in these moments to step up and raise the team.
First and foremost, LAFC have struggled badly over the years in terms of the mental battle against the Galaxy. Fortunately, there’s been plenty of turnover on the roster and that could help, but we saw just this year in the first league meeting against the Galaxy and in particular in the U.S. Open Cup clash between the teams, LAFC have a penchant for letting the Galaxy get in their heads.
I think John Thorrington’s effort to remake the roster over the course of the year to add experience has been in part to bring more leadership and knowhow for this very reason, but since we’ve seen a shaky LAFC a couple times against their rivals already this year, the midseason additions may very well be needed to fully overcome the mental battle. In particular, I think Giorgio Chiellini’s leadership is exactly what the black-and-gold could use for games like this. He’s willing to put an arm around a teammate for a talking to, and he’ll stand up for his team against the opponent, but he also plays peacemaker surprisingly well for a huge center back. LAFC will likely rely on him and other seasoned heads to make sure they don’t get taken by whatever antics the Galaxy may have in store on the field.
Beyond that, LAFC finished the season in decent, but not great form. Losing on the last day of the regular season is honestly not that big of a deal, they had nothing to play for and were pretty unlucky with chances in that game. But it’s certainly true that the roster makeover in the summer and fall likely disrupted the team’s chemistry to at least some extent.
While Chiellini and Denis Bouanga have settled in pretty well at this point for LAFC, both players taking up starting roles and fitting in, two other big names, Gareth Bale and Cristian Tello, haven’t yet hit the ground running. Their situations are rather different: Bale joined LAFC pretty early in the summer window but he’s been “working up to fitness” for four months and with two starts under his belt for the black-and-gold, Bale remains a bench player. Coming in, we knew when he signed the ultimate aim for Bale was the World Cup this fall for Wales, and that’s entirely fair. But LAFC are likely going to need him to come up with a game-changing play, and hopefully he can come through.
Tello, meanwhile, didn’t have the same kind of ramp up as Bale, he only joined in early September and has only been eligible to play for just over a month. He got a longer run out in the season finale, and honestly, it might have been a good idea for him to start that game, but he seems destined to be a bench player in the postseason, too.
In some ways, that’s not so bad. How many MLS teams can boast having two La Liga-winning attackers coming off the bench? Plus, we’ve seen Bale score two fantastic goals this season, so he has shown he can score in this league.
But when it comes to the playoffs, and based on LAFC’s track record here, they’re going to need a collective step up to win. They’re also going to need their best players to carry the team, at least for a play or a stretch. It doesn’t matter who does it, ultimately, but hopefully the new yet experienced players added validate the midseason buying spree with a win on Thursday and hopefully two more after that this year.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.