The Galaxy started the game on the back foot as they were woefully out possessed, while also being outshot in the first half 14-1. Additionally, the Galaxy were assisted by the goalpost and some offside calls that went their way.
While the Galaxy created chances with their counter-attack, to say they were fortunate to walk into the locker rooms with a 0-0 draw would be putting it nicely.
The turning point came in the second half when the LAFC goalkeeper, Pablo Sisniega, made a questionable decision to come off his line to try and beat Cristian Pavon in a foot race to the ball. Pavon made him pay for the error with a sombrero goal that turned the game on its head.
The mental blow of conceding first proved to be too much for Mark-Anthony Kaye who received the first red card in El Trafico history for his reckless and dangerous tackle on Julian Araujo, who had been beating LAFC players to the ball for much of the match.
Once LAFC was down to ten men, there was still much of the game to be played, but three points became almost inevitable for the Galaxy.
Sebastian Lletget continued his current form by slotting home a goal from a textbook set play and a dazzling scissor kick to close out the match.
It wasn’t a complete game from the Galaxy, but it highlighted the resilience of a team that has been patient and clinical by frustrating their opponents and making the most of their limited chances.
Let’s take a look at who threw the spike strips in front of the Fiats during the most recent edition of El Trafico:
TOP OF THE CLASS
Sebastian Lletget is making a case to be the team’s most valuable player since the initial phase of the MLS restart began in early August. That may be difficult to do for a player who shares the field with Cristian Pavon, but Lletget is right there in the conversation alongside the Argentine designated player.
Lletget put in yet another man of the match performance against LAFC by scoring a brace in spectacular fashion. The first goal came from a designed set play that the team had rehearsed on the training ground. Lletget mentioned in the post game press conference that he hit the crossbar twice in practice and perhaps that was a blessing as he kept his shot low to cut through the rival defense.
His second goal is a perfect indicator of the confidence that Lletget is playing with at the moment. Rolf Feltscher sent in a cross to the far side of the penalty box which saw Lletget prepare his body to take flight and drive a scissor kick into the ground, bouncing into the corner of the goal. This proved to be the final nail in the coffin of the opposition.
Lletget is second on the team stat sheet in goals scored, assists, and shots. While Pavon leads the team in all of those categories, Lletget has been the perfect compliment and the Galaxy will continue to lean on him to direct the attack for the remainder of the season.
While Sebastian Lletget’s resurgence has been impressive in recent matches, Cristian Pavon still remains the most dangerous weapon in the offense. His deft touch to score his sixth goal of the season showed the level of class that Pavon brings to Los Angeles.
Pavon is one of the few players on the club with the confidence and technical skill to take defenders on one-on-one. The downside of this is that in an effort to thread the needle, he is susceptible to losing the ball. While this can be seen as a negative, one of Pavon’s overlooked qualities is his work rate in recovery where he can be seen fighting to win the ball back and reset the attack.
Pavon was a terror on the wings for the full 90 minutes and found himself either putting the ball in a perfect spot for an oncoming striker or putting himself in position to take the shot for himself.
It is safe to say that the #MVPavon campaign is continuing to pick up steam as the five star performances keep piling up.
Two weeks ago I hesitated to give David Bingham five stars for shutting out LAFC on the road due to his lack of shots faced. This week, Bingham earned his five stars as his goal was peppered with shots all game long and yet he still did not concede a goal on the night.
Bingham finished the match with seven saves and bailed out the defense during some shaky situations in the first half. In addition to the saves, Bingham also minimized his distribution errors which have been an issue in previous matches.
Bingham’s performances this season have been feast or famine, and this weekend he dined at the buffet. The confidence boost of playing such an important role in a shutout will benefit Bingham, but he will need to string together more consistent performances to win back the trust of those who doubt him.
But for now, give credit where credit is due. Bingham should be proud of consecutive shutouts against LAFC. A big performance next week against his former team, San Jose, would be huge milestone for the keeper.
Emiliano Insua was brought in during the off season to provide experience and a steadiness to the left side of the defense. While Insua is only one of five players to play in all nine MLS matches this season, some of his performances have been less than stellar.
This week, Insua showed the pedigree of a player who has played in some of Europe’s biggest leagues. Insua may not have the speed to keep up with some of the league’s faster players, but he has the ability to recover in these situations.
In addition to his work defensively, Insua added his first assist of the season as he sent Pavon in on goal to break the deadlock in the 51st minute. The 31-year-old Argentine has all of the tools to be one of the club’s iron men this season.
The assumption has been that while Jonathan Dos Santos is recovering from injury, Perry Kitchen is only in the starting role as a place holder until the captain is fully healthy again. While I know it may be blasphemous to say this out loud, Perry Kitchen has done enough in the past four matches to keep his spot in the defensive midfield, regardless of how healthy Dos Santos is. This doesn’t mean that Dos Santos shouldn’t return to the starting lineup when he is ready, it just should not be in place of Kitchen.
Kitchen has been a rock in the midfield breaking up plays and making key passes to kick start the counter attack. While Kitchen does have a penchant for earning yellow cards, he leads the team with three, it is important to have a bulldog on the field that brings a level of intensity that pushes teammates to fight for possession on every play.
A player like Kitchen doesn’t always light up the stat sheet, but he played a huge role in holding LAFC scoreless with his recoveries and tackles. Perhaps we will continue to see Kitchen in his starting role as Guillermo Barros Schellotto is forced to look for alternatives to bring back his injured captain.
When I previously mentioned that Perry Kitchen’s role in the starting midfield may be untouchable, Joe Corona’s spot may be the one up for grabs.
Corona had another quiet evening as he disappeared for large stretches of the game. Last week, Corona scored a sensational goal that earned him high praise, but if I am being honest, aside from the goal, the performance was pretty mediocre.
While Corona may not consistently have an impact on each game, he has shown that he has the ability to do so. He will need to make the most of his minutes in the upcoming match if he wants to retain his starting role in the midfield.
Ethan Zubak has been given the opportunity to shine in the last four matches as he has been given the role as starting striker for these games. Since scoring his first MLS goal against LAFC in the last El Trafico matchup, Zubak has struggled to find the back of the net.
One of Zubak’s best opportunities in this match came in the first half where he was left unmarked to try and volley in a cross from Rolf Feltscher. Zubak ended up sending the ball over the cross bar. While the chance was not easy by any means, Zubak likely won’t be given time and space to score like that very often and he needs to capitalize on those opportunities.
Zubak’s homegrown status is a feel good story for the LA Galaxy, but if Zubak is not a danger in front of goal then Schelotto may need to try his luck with other options as a backup striker such as Gordon Wild or Cameron Dunbar.
Zubak may get one last chance to make an impression and bag some first team goals next week as Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez looks to begin training with the team soon.
Jonathan Dos Santos’ minutes have been steadily increasing during the four game win streak, but his impact on the game has not. Dos Santos still does not look to be fully match fit and has struggled to find his footing.
If I am Guillermo Barros Schelotto, I think I have to be hesitant about disrupting the the starting lineup to insert Dos Santos given how well the team has been playing without him.
The positive spin on Dos Santos is that he is putting himself in position to succeed as evidenced with a run he made in the box where he almost got his first goal of the season.
Additionally, he registered a high passing percentage in this match showing that he is on the road to being back in top form. He’s just not there right now.
Remember, it’s OK not to peak too soon.
Below you can find all player grades plus their per game average rating.