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LA Galaxy vs. LAFC: Three Questions

What’s going on with the El Trafico opponent?

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Dynamo FC Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

El Trafico is back, as the LA Galaxy host LAFC on Saturday in the LA rivals’ first game of the 2021 season. Ahead of the big game, let’s check in on how LAFC are doing, and since I cover both teams, I will ask and answer the questions this time. Many thanks to me for taking the time.

LAG Confidential asks Angels on Parade:

1. LAFC haven’t yet lost this season but they don’t seem to be in gear yet, either. What’s going on to start the season?

Great point, it has been a weird start to the season. It’s true, LAFC haven’t lost, beating Austin FC 2-0 on opening day (which looks better as Austin string together wins themselves), then drawing the Seattle Sounders 1-1 and then another 1-1 draw, against the Houston Dynamo. But they’ve been scrambling a bit, with three key players — forwards Diego Rossi and Carlos Vela and defender Tristan Blackmon — missing at least one of those games.

When LAFC is at full strength, they should rightly be considered top-line contenders but injuries have cropped up and there probably should be some concerns if they can stay healthy and play at full strength. For example, Vela sounds as though he’ll come off the bench at best against the Galaxy, and may not feature at all. Does that change LAFC’s prospects? Maybe not in every single game but certainly in the long run and probably in the big games.

And just like the Galaxy, LAFC’s last game left them feeling disappointed and vowing to come back stronger. LAFC didn’t lose, but they felt their performance was well below their standards and in many ways treated the last result as though it were a loss. So these teams are entering the game in similar mindsets.

2. If Vela can’t play, who’s going to score the goals for LAFC?

Diego Rossi made his season debut against Houston after missing the first two games with a hamstring injury and he looked rusty. But hey, he’s the reigning MLS Golden Boot winner so he’s not a bad player to have in reserve.

Beyond that the player who’s produced the most so far is Corey Baird, who has two goals in three games to start his tenure with LAFC. Baird has been healthy and has shown a knack for getting into goalscoring positions so his acquisition from RSL looks good so far.

The other scorers have been midfielders — Jose Cifuentes and Eduard Atuesta. Underlying the big numbers from Vela and Rossi over the years has been a team that otherwise spreads the scoring load around, and regardless, I expect that approach to continue.

3. So how hard or easy will it be for Chicharito to score a hat trick on LAFC?

The short answer is it depends. On one hand, LAFC have allowed just two goals in three games, but they have barely notched any shutouts the past season-plus. They tend to either feel it or they don’t. Obviously the Galaxy have experience at this, they’ve been able to score buckets on LAFC at times, and part of the style of play Bob Bradley has these days is that they know they’re going to get into some shootouts. If they win some games 3-2, Bob may critique the defense a bit publicly, but they’ll take it.

Having said all of that, I think the defense is better this year than it was most of last year. Jesus David Murillo raised the level in the back when he joined in October, and he and Eddie Segura are a contender-level center back pairing. With Diego Palacios and Tristan Blackmon as the fullbacks, they have the pieces in place to be a quality defense, but we need to see them show that on a regular basis. Can they falter? Yep, and that should give the Galaxy hope. But I think it’s more likely they allow one or zero goals these days than three or four. We’ll see which version shows up on Saturday.

You can read my answers to...uh...my questions on the Galaxy at Angels on Parade.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.