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A rare tackle/assist set the tone in LA Galaxy’s El Trafico win

Derrick Williams the player to execute the good/lucky play.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at LA Galaxy Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Victor Vazquez missed the LA Galaxy’s first El Trafico showdown of 2021 against LAFC due to injury, and so who did the playmaking in the 2-1 win?

Would you believe it if I said defender Derrick Williams did via tackle?

That’s right, the new center back played his first 90 minute shift for the Galaxy on Saturday, and LA’s 11th minute opener was caused by one of the more remarkable assists you’re likely to see.

Williams had a terrific tackle on the edge of LA’s defensive third on LAFC midfielder Jose Cifuentes, who was pushing up to try and spring a quick counterattack. Instead, Williams’ tackle landed right at the feet of Chicharito, who turned and scored for the Galaxy.

Head coach Greg Vanney, somewhat wryly, called it “one of the best passes that we’re probably seen in a while.”

But he also credited Williams for helping the Galaxy react more quickly in defense to try and snuff out transition attempts.

“It was a heck of a tackle and the one thing that I will give him credit for because it’s one of the things that we as a group need to get better at, is when balls are being played out in transition, when we lose balls high that we need to be tighter to people, we need to contest those balls, and it was one of the few times in the game that I thought we were really close enough to compete for the ball that was played out and it turned into a goal,” Vanney told reporters postgame. “We need to be more present in those types of situations the way Derrick was on that one, and it turned into a second chance opportunity that turned into a goal that gave us the lead, so kudos to him. We need to see more of it, not just from him specifically but just from our group in general and to be able to sustain and get second chance attacks sometimes. Sometimes it’s too easy, I feel, for teams right now to get out once we’ve attacked them one time. So, really, really good job by Derrick.”

The defense was immense all game for LA, putting together a substantially better performance, and while Chicharito’s goal and assist will likely get the headlines and rightly so in a rivalry game, the performance of the backline and goalkeeper Jonathan Bond provided the platform for Chicharito’s heroics on the day.

“Although we have conceded more goals and we’d like to this point [in the season], I don’t feel like our defending as a back four has been bad,” said Bond, who leads the league in saves but is also third in goals conceded this season.

“So full of strange...like you try and apply statistics to things and I don’t think football works like that very much. So, having said that today the four defenders and the midfielders in front were incredible, like the amount of pressure we were under, at times, hitting balls away. Derrick sliding into tackles, Jorge [Villafaña] winning headers at the back post, Julian [Araujo] closing down his winger. Then we have [Jonathan dos Santos] and Carlos [Harvey] working across because they had men in the pocket, so really it was defensively, it did stand out today,” he continued.

The Galaxy did concede to LAFC, with Diego Rossi scoring an equalizer just after the hour mark, on the visitors’ most fluid attack of the evening. But LA’s ability to find a second go-ahead goal, and the otherwise stellar defending on the day, in the face of considerable pressure, meant LAFC left Dignity Health Sports Park feeling utterly stymied by the Galaxy’s defensive performance.

“Today we got the better of them and we executed in the key moments,” said Vanney. “And in some ways maybe we outwork them in moments, but we executed in the times that we needed to to win the game. So it’s nice for fans, it’s nice for our club and for our players specifically to win an important game like this and now after four we have three wins.”

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