LA Galaxy have the biggest match of their season tomorrow. For just the second time ever, they will go into their local rival’s house, with more than just three points and bragging rights on the line. They once again meet LAFC in the MLS Playoffs, and this time, they look to right the wrong from 2019. While the inhabitants of The Banc love to use home field to their every advantage, Galaxy go into Thursday with a certain mental edge that almost no other team in the MLS can. They know they can beat that team, and they’ve proven it more than once.
We've got more business to handle. pic.twitter.com/CNX2O5RfuN— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) October 18, 2022
The G’s hold the lead in the, still very new, rivalry with a record of 7-4-5. They've beaten LAFC in regular season action, they've eliminated them from U.S. Open Cup contention, and on Thursday they look to add beating them in the postseason, to that list. The first time these two met in the playoffs was in 2019, when then Zlatan-led Galaxy went into the Banc and could not trade punches long enough, as they were eliminated in a 5-3 loss. That match was the sixth all-time meeting between the two. Funnily enough, it was not only LAFC’s first win at home against the Galaxy, it was their first win ever in El Tráfico. A win they have not let anyone forget about, especially this week. However, as much as they hurt in the moment, it didn't even serve as a shift in the power dynamic between the two clubs.
Since that win — reminder, LAFC were so emotionally drained from that, they lost the very next round and have yet to secure their first MLS Cup — the other side has only won three times. The Galaxy, for as bad as they've seemed in general the last couple of years, have five wins against their rivals since that 2019 loss, with two draws thrown in for good measure.
LAFC may be a tough team to face, but unlike most teams in the league, the Galaxy aren't scared of them or their supposed home field advantage. LA have gotten the result four of seven times at The Banc, a record most teams can’t boast.
Why is all that important? For a couple reasons. Mostly, because home field advantage is something every team leans on. Every team wants to have a fortress for a home, and for just about every other team in the league, the Banc of California is just that. It's where they dread playing, where it feels like hell having to endure 90-plus minutes of that atmosphere. Yet, like Bane, the Galaxy were molded by that chaotic darkness. Not only do they thrive in it, they embrace it, enjoy it. So much of sports in about finding that mental edge, that little bit of intimidation factor in your opponent, and when it isn't there, it makes things so much more difficult, and can often lead to panic.
Which brings the next point. Just one more thing used to apply pressure on an LAFC squad feeling all of it. Sure, I know Galaxy fans demand a sixth MLS Cup, and want to see it yesterday, but let’s be brutally honest. This season, even if this team lost tomorrow, is a success. Not just that, but with how the team has looked since the arrival of Riqui Puig, there's plenty of hope going forward.
However, for the other side, it's Cup or bust in every sense of the word. Their main star is rapidly approaching the final stages of his time on a pitch, after five years of building talented roster after talented roster, with no championship, desperation is setting in. Not just that, but given their recent form over the last month, it's a true blessing they're at home, otherwise a first-round exit would be very likely.
But look now. That home field advantage means little against the Galaxy, so that's one less crutch. The one thing they fought so hard to keep, the one thing they know can swing momentum in their favor, has all but been voided out this matchup. Tomorrow will undoubtedly come down to which side makes the fewest mistakes, and which side converts their chances. It sounds simple, but when you force a team into a corner, when you make a team already feeling the pressure, feel it even more, mistakes soon follow. Will the G’s be there to capitalize, and show that 2019 was just a blip in a rivalry that's been under their control? We’ll find out on Thursday.
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