Zlatan was at his show-stopping best against LAFC on Sunday, egging on rival fans before kickoff and then scoring two goals
Zlatan & Los Angeles Stages Drama Worthy Of Hollywood
By Greg McKay
Sunday night saw the hugely anticipated Los Angeles derby between LAFC and the LA Galaxy end in an enthralling 3-3 draw.
For the LA Galaxy, the game presented an opportunity to not only secure key points in the Western Conference playoff race but also continue their undefeated streak against their cross-town rivals. LAFC, on the other hand, were eager to show that they could get a first win against the LA Galaxy and more importantly put their dominance against every other team in the league on display in a critical, play-off like atmosphere.
At the end of the game, the LA Galaxy were left ruing points dropped away from home after surrendering a commanding two goal lead, while Bob Bradley’s men were unable to shake the proverbial six-foot-five Swede off their back. In many ways the game only served to reinforce some of what we already know about these two California-based teams.
Zlatan Loves the spotlight
Zlatan still loves, and revels in, the spotlight. LAFC, while naive at times on Sunday, are the toast of Major League Soccer so far this season, dominating the match for long stretches. Last, the LA rivalry, while not the best in terms of history, intensity or bitterness, is the most exciting match-up in Major League Soccer.
Zlatan was at his show stopping best against LAFC on Sunday, egging on rival fans before kickoff and then scoring two goals that confirmed the fact that he is still one of the most clinical finishers in the league. With the addition of Cristian Pavon, no defense in the Western Conference would fancy a match-up against the Galaxy. Manager Guillermo Barros Schelotto could set the team up to defend with eight players and still present a lethal attack with Pavon running off Zlatan.
With respect to the home team, LAFC are likely to be runaway winners of the Supporters’ Shield. Although they struggled early on, once they settled into the game, they bossed the match for large periods and really should have gone on to win the contest in the final stages, even without their best player Carlos Vela. In addition, new designated player and former Peñarol starlet Brian Rodriguez looks a real impact signing with a fearless ability to run at players.
The problem for LAFC, though, was in their tactical approach to the game, which to put it kindly could be described as naive. A crosstown derby is much like a playoff game in that it feels like more is at stake than a regular season match and often is played, at least initially, at a fever pace. Rather than set themselves up to settle into the game, keeping midfielders deep and additional defenders as cover, LAFC pushed forward with typical abandon, leaving themselves exposed when they misplaced passes in the middle of the park, which they did on a regular basis in the first thirty minutes.
Although Bradley likes to emulate the style of Guardiola, he could learn from a manager with a similar degree of success in the ruthless knock-out stages of the Champions League, Alex Ferguson. Ferguson’s successful Manchester United squads were willing to play end-to-end in the English Premier League but when it came to a real do-or-die match, he installed the likes of Darren Fletcher and Park Ji-sung to control the pace of games.
Tactical adjustments notwithstanding, neutral fans will hope that Bradley and LAFC get another shot to secure their first win against the LA Galaxy in the MLS playoffs. From the first match-up where Zlatan turned the game on its head in a singular debut performance, scoring on a fantastic volley from forty yards, El Tráfico has proved to be the most exciting game MLS has to offer.
Though the derby has a long way to go to match the history of rivalries like the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders or the intensity and bitterness between longtime foes NY Red Bulls and D.C. United, the Los Angeles derby has rightly earned the reputation as the most exciting in MLS today.