Saturday evening another chapter gets written in what has rapidly become one of the must-watch rivalry matches this league has to offer. In just four short seasons this has become less of a soccer match, and more a statement of intent from both sides. This season, the match comes at a time where both sides will be looking at it as one they can't afford to lose. Sure, it’s just three points, or so they claim.
"It's a game we really want to win and perform well in. We take it very seriously, but the preparation remains very similar to other weeks."— LAFC (@LAFC) April 7, 2022
Training Report presented by @DrinkBODYARMOR. pic.twitter.com/zxJTAmAcgY
Saturday marks the start of year 5 of this rivalry. For LAFC, it’s another chance to prove they are the captains of the LA soccer ship now. But the LA Galaxy look to continue their dominance over the city’s newest craze, on the pitch. With the exception of the insane year that was 2020, each season’s iteration of the rivalry has kicked off at Dignity Health Sports Park, home of the Galaxy. Every single season, the G’s have come away from that first meeting victorious. It should be noted that technically LAFC did win an opening match between the two, in 2020’s MLS is Back Tournament, where they won 6-2 in a match played in Orlando, under lots of unique circumstances. Of the 11 regular season meetings to date, LAFC have only tasted victory once, with the teams splitting points five times, leaving Galaxy with five rivalry wins currently.
However, LAFC does have one major bragging right. A win when it mattered the absolute most, the 5-3 victory over their rivals in the postseason 2019. Yet, even with the overwhelming series lead at the moment, Saturday feels like another huge chance for the black-and-gold to plant their flag as kings of the city. And it feels like another chance for the Galaxy to show the history does matter and they still have the upper hand.
This season is a turning point for both clubs. On one side, you have a club with a new head coach, revamped roster, and added pressure of having to meet expectations they set for themselves. On the other side, the league's gold standard looking to reach that pinnacle once again. A team in its second year under the current coach, looking to get the disappointing taste of last year out of their mouths. While one side approaches Saturday as just another match week, the other is confident in acknowledging this one means much more.
“It’s huge” said Galaxy forward Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez when speaking to media ahead of Saturday. “They are first in our conference, they are the neighbors, and they want to reach, at one point, the level this [LA Galaxy] organization has. We have championships so it means a lot of course. We know what it means, what it represents, and we want to win.”
Friends and rivals @CH14_ & #CarlosVela are set to face off for the first time in @MLS action this Saturday, so how does Chicharito feel about this?— The Call Up (@MLSCallUp) April 7, 2022
️ https://t.co/LBFMmDm3Is pic.twitter.com/jmJJfrqShx
While everyone — expectedly so — is excited for the first Chicharito vs. Vela match-up we have gotten since the former arrived in MLS several years ago, this one is about the teams as a whole. The Galaxy may not be unbeaten, but they've had a good start to the season. A couple of tough losses rocked the boat briefly, but they'll be coming into the match fresh off a 3-1 win in Portland. They’ve been laser-focused all season on working their way back to where they feel they should be, in championship contention.
Those neighbors Chicha spoke about are having one of their best starts to a season, ever. Despite entering the year with a new coach, several new players, and tons of questions, LAFC 2.0 as its been dubbed, has looked like LAFC 2019 at times. Not only unbeaten, but finding the back of the net with consistency, despite an injury keeping their top goalscorer in 2021 from playing as much as we all know he can. Oh yeah, they are also sitting atop the Western Conference.
All that to say Saturday is far more than just a match, it’s an opportunity. A win for LAFC really sets the stage for the rest of their season. It would be their first win to start the season of rivalries off, their first win on the road against the Galaxy, and a statement to the rest of the league, and themselves, that they are a team to worry about this year. Adds some legitimacy to the unbeaten start they've had.
What's your favorite El Tráfico moment?— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 7, 2022
Catch another edition of the rivalry Saturday at 7:30pm ET on FOX / FOX Deportes. pic.twitter.com/6TvgOA1VVE
For the Galaxy, this is a chance to once again flex on little brother. A chance to quiet the noise, and bring the hype train to a screeching halt. It would help ease the pain of those two tough losses in late March, it would keep them unbeaten at home against their cross-town foes, and more importantly, it would help them keep pace with the rest of the West in what will be another wild year in the conference. So no, Saturday isn't just three points. It isn't just another match or business as usual. This is more. This means more. For both teams, a win sets the tone for the rest of the season to come.
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