It’s the match that gets circled in red every year the schedules drop — at least it has for the past five years — throw in trophy opportunities on the line, and levels increase ten fold. We’ve once again reached El Tráfico week, this time, a Round of 16 matchup in the return of the U.S. Open Cup. A chance for both sides to get some much-needed hardware. Instead of going through the usual “what this game means” (we all know what it means by now, yes? Good) we decided to ask a question. Were the LA Galaxy looking too far ahead to this match?
It’s not a question asked lightly, and if you asked anyone within the squad they would most definitely scoff at the notion of such a thing. In fairness, it isn't just the rivalry match at play, but the team’s mistake in looking past their last USOC opponent, fourth-tier Cal United Strikers. With a heavily-rotated squad the team found themselves in a fight having gone down early. It took three goals, two in the 80th minute or later, to avoid extra time in a match they never looked controlling in.
Hindsight is everything but perhaps that was a match to put out a stronger squad, continue the early-season momentum and get an emphatic win under the belt before the tournament got real tricky with fellow MLS sides. Instead, the decision to use that match as a ‘show me what you got’ match for fringe players, turned into them having to fend off a team that had no business being in that match.
Fast forward to this past Sunday and it happened again, only worse. Sure, we all knew the squad would likely be rotated and featuring those who may not see consistent minutes — considering the Open Cup match was just three days away — but it’s still no excuse for the performance the team put forth. While maybe not regular starters, it was still a talented squad, at home, against a Houston Dynamo side hovering near the bottom of the conference. The team went down in the first ten minutes, never recovered, and ended up blown out at home 0-3. Since the narrow escape against Cal United, the team is winless in their last three (0-2-1), and have been outscored 7-2.
Oddly enough, the team faced a bit of the same earlier in the season before these two played. After opening up the season with two big wins, the G’z lost two of their next three before getting the best of their rivals at home, 2-1. They once again have that opportunity on Wednesday. A chance to shake the slump, regain their focus, and get back to winning matches. This is such an important stretch for the team. Including the loss to the Houston, this team is in the midst of a four-match home stretch, as well as five of their next six matches being at home. If there was ever a time to make up ground and get back to the top of the conference, it’s right now. It all starts with LAFC tomorrow. A chance to get back on track, but more importantly, keeping hardware hopes alive while breaking the hearts of your rivals.
How are you feeling about the match? Leave a comment below!