Red cards, VAR controversies, and missing DPs. The LA Galaxy lose the final El Trafico of 2020 after a series of unfortunate events.
While the MLS season may have be shortened due to the difficulties of the coronavirus pandemic, that did not stop the LA Galaxy from facing their rivals for a record fourth time in the regular season.
As was the case a week ago against the Vancouver Whitecaps, much of the pre-match discussion was more about who was not in the starting lineup. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez was not in the gameday roster due to a reported hamstring injury.
Regardless of any speculation, Hernandez has now failed to be declared fit for all four of the Galaxy’s marquee match-ups against their rivals.
After Giancarlo Gonzalez was shown a red card for denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity, the Galaxy managed to put in a respectable effort in keeping the game scoreless until VAR, or lack thereof, once again became the focus.
LAFC opened the scoring after Eddie Segura rescued a ball that appeared to be out of bounds. From that moment, it looked unlikely that the Galaxy would be able to salvage any points. The final dagger came in injury time as Carlos Vela scored to seal the fate of the Galaxy as they fell 2-0.
Let’s take a look at how the players fared on the afternoon.
TOP OF THE CLASS
Sacha Kljestan was once again called upon to be in the starting lineup as Perry Kitchen was serving a suspension for yellow card accumulation. Kljestan did well to connect passes and complete successful dribbles as the Galaxy were able to create some half-chances while down a man.
Kljestan’s most memorable moment of the match came as he could be seen running at a full sprint to try and find the other side of a Cristian Pavon pass, but he just didn’t seem to have the speed to get there in time.
The play was indicative of Kljestan’s time in Los Angeles. You can see the soccer knowledge and desire on display, but perhaps the match fitness and sharpness isn’t there like it used to be.
Regardless of play on the field, Kljestan has been a vocal leader for the team who has faced the media and showed accountability during this tough stretch from the Galaxy.
Rolf Feltscher returned to the starting lineup after being away on international duty and looked to be better off thanks to his time away with the Venezuelan national team.
Feltscher led the team in tackles and did well to hold the LAFC offense at bay. After the Galaxy were reduced to 10 men, Feltscher didn’t get involved in the offense as much as he has in previous matches. But this wasn’t a bad thing as it allowed him to focus on winning duels and holding his defensive shape.
This season has been a turbulent one for Feltscher as he has lacked consistency and at times looked to have lost his starting position, but in this match Feltscher showed an upside that the Galaxy will need if they have any hopes of making the playoffs.
Nick DePuy was the odd man out as Guillermo Barros Schelotto was forced to make some changes on the back line after the Galaxy’s losing streak. However, DePuy once again stepped up to the occasion after being subbed on to fill in at center back after Giancarlo Gonzalez was shown red.
Some of DePuy’s best games have been against LAFC and this one was no exception. DePuy held his own on the back line and could be seen winning a number of duels and clearances.
DePuy was also the only player on the Galaxy to register a shot on target. While this is more a symptom of the team’s inability to create offense, it highlighted the effort that he puts in on set pieces. You have to imagine that with his 6’5 frame, DePuy will eventually find the back of the net moving forward.
Sebastian Lletget was held off the stat sheet as he failed to create much in the central attacking midfield role. It does need to be noted that with DePuy being subbed on for Yony Gonzalez, there wasn’t a true forward on the field for Lletget to work with, but he still managed to do very little with the chances he had.
Lletget can be given the benefit of the doubt as it is difficult to be in the playmaker role when the team is shorthanded, but Lletget led the team in possessions lost and duels lost. This is not a good sign regardless of the team’s situation.
Lletget also found himself mirroring runs of other players, which has been a consistent issue with him throughout the season. The team as a whole is lacking confidence at the moment and Lletget finds himself right in the middle of the Galaxy’s offensive troubles.
Jonathan Dos Santos also returned to to the starting lineup after participating in a couple of international friendlies with the Mexican national team, but unfortunately had the same struggles prior to leaving.
Dos Santos hasn’t looked like the same player that was the engine of the team in 2019. On a team with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Galaxy’s success often hinged on the play of Dos Santos. This season, the Galaxy continue to struggle when Dos Santos is not at his best.
During his 68 minute shift, Dos Santos was limited in his touches and turned the ball over in some key situations that the Galaxy were lucky not to concede after.
If Dos Santos is going to maintain his designated player status moving forward, then he will need to take the off-season to get fully healthy so he can be the heart of the midfield that the Galaxy need so desperately.
Giancarlo “Pipo” Gonzalez becomes the first player this season to earn zero stars on ‘Grading the Galaxy’. Gonzalez actually looked to be having a decent game until he made a careless challenge outside of the box which led to him being sent off.
The Gonzalez error led to a series of events that could easily be linked to the cause for the Galaxy’s loss. Gonzalez only played 25 minutes and left the backline shorthanded until DePuy was subbed on. Additionally, the necessary sub to strengthen the defense was at the expense of Yony Gonzalez and left the Galaxy without a forward for the majority of the match.
Given how well the Galaxy responded with ten men, it leaves people to think about the hypothetical situation of how the Galaxy might have fared at full strength with the mental advantage they’ve had over LAFC this season.
While the Galaxy offense has struggled for much of the season, Gonzalez single-handedly hamstrung the team and put them in an uphill battle that they were never able to overcome.
Obviously the result of the match was not ideal as a Galaxy fan, but I was fortunate enough to be featured on the MLS Twitter page in a video discussing the El Trafico rivalry with one of my childhood friends.
Check it out!
Below you can find all player grades plus their per game average rating.