LAFC lost their first game of the 2022 regular season on Saturday, and wouldn’t you know it, it came in the big rivalry game against the LA Galaxy at Dignity Health Sports Park. The home side took a two-goal lead in the first half and held on in the 2-1 victory as LAFC’s comeback effort was too little, too late.
For all the progress we’ve seen with LAFC so far this season, this game was an unfortunate return to the poor moments of El Trafico history for the black-and-gold: Getting torched in defense, looking second-best in passing and intensity for long stretches, and finding their attempt to get back in the game not nearly enough for a match that is so important to this region. At the same time, Carlos Vela had a near-miss goal and two goals chalked off for offside, in addition to the 97th minute equalizer by Latif Blessing getting called back, which is surely going to leave a sour taste in the mouth.
Both teams got off to a sharp start in the opening minutes, as the excitement gave them a little extra. Diego Palacios nearly set up Jose Cifuentes for a tap-in in the opening minute, only for Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond to intercept the cross.
Brian Rodriguez seemed to suffer a muscle strain very early in the match and was subbed out, with Ismael Tajouri-Shradi the first sub on the day for LAFC in the 10th minute.
But the Galaxy drew first blood, with Chicharito finishing Samuel Grandsir’s cross from the edge of the box with a header in the 13th minute.
It looked like LAFC had the equalizer in the 23rd minute, but his shot off a jailbreak turnover created by Kwadwo Opoku clanged off the post and the Galaxy recovered to end the chance.
Vela seemingly got the equalizer in the 28th minute, heading in Kellyn Acosta’s free kick, but it was immediately chalked up as offside. The VAR booth reviewed it and the call stood, so no goal for the black-and-gold that time around.
It got worse, as Galaxy defender Sega Coulibaly scored to give the home side a 2-0 lead, LAFC’s defense falling asleep as an unconventional low cross trickled through the 6-yard box.
The teams went into the halftime break with the Galaxy leading 2-0, LAFC having lots of work to do if they wanted to get back into the match.
Vela again scored just after halftime, and again was ruled offside, as LAFC continued to lose the game of inches on the attacking end.
LAFC had the better of the run of play in the 2nd half after getting played off the field in the 1st, but both teams appeared to be slowing down due to fatigue and the game lost its crisp edge. Jose Cifuentes forced a save off Bond in the 65th minute from a sharp header, but LAFC struggled to get many chances even if they held the ball.
Cristian Arango replaced Opoku in the 67th minute, while Latif Blessing entered for Cifuentes at the same time as LAFC tried to bring on fresh legs for a renewed charge at a result.
Tajouri-Shradi had a fantastic chance in the 71st minute off a floating cross from Vela, but the Libyan missed the goal, his half-volley sailing over the goal altogether.
LAFC finally got the breakthrough in the 79th minute, as Vela forced a save from Bond, before Arango followed up on the rebound and got the score to make it 2-1.
NOT OVER YET— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 10, 2022
Chicho Arango pulls one back. 2-1. Game on! pic.twitter.com/ywbqLQjzIw
LAFC nearly got an equalizer a few minutes later, as Arango and Bond collided in the air on a ball, but a foul was called for Arango clattering into the GK and the play was whistled dead.
The play was fully one-way in the final minutes, and LAFC found the equalizer in the 97th minute, as Blessing notched the equalizer during a mad scramble with the seconds ticking away. The goal was originally awarded, but then was chalked off on video review. The final whistle came seconds later, and it was an absolute gut punch ending. Prior to that, you could live with LAFC losing with the issues being fairly straightforward, but the offside call on Mamadou Fall on the buildup was hard to take.
The effort to make a game of it in the 2nd half after the Galaxy ran roughshod over them is laudable, but LAFC getting blown away in the first 45 was really the story of the game. LAFC just do not bring it enough in El Trafico games — they can hold the upper hand on any other team in the league, and feel confident they can play their game, but against the Galaxy they wilt, time and again. There have been a few great wins over the years in this rivalry, but the prevailing trends are what they are at this point, and LAFC have work to do to turn the tide against their biggest rivals.
LAFC are next in action next Sunday, when they’ll host Sporting Kansas City for the teams’ first meeting of 2022. The home game is helpful, but Sporting are an inconsistent team that can either come in like a deflated balloon or blow the doors off their opponent. LAFC will need to be ready for another tricky opponent.
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