One-third of the way through Major League Soccer’s regular season, the Western Conference table has a distinct Los Angeles look.
LAFC got off to the best start in club history at 7-1-1 and is currently at the top of the table. Their cross-town part-time rivals, the LA Galaxy, are third.
LAFC and the Galaxy already compete in one of MLS’ best rivalries, the cleverly-named El Trafico, or Los Angeles Derby (MLS doesn’t like the El Trafico name). The Galaxy-handed LAFC its first loss of the season. The Galaxy also claims San Jose as one of their big rivals – the California Clasico.
Voting on California’s sports betting referendum should take place just after the MLS Cup is decided in October. Voters should know that there will be two options on the ballot:
- One backed by Native American tribes to add in-person sports betting
- One backed by sportsbook operators to offer mobile sports betting
In the meantime, let’s look at what’s worked for LAFC and the Galaxy and what challenges remain.
The Black and Gold are back
Since starting play in 2018, LAFC has become one of MLS’ premier franchises. The team is reaching the playoffs in its first three years but finished ninth in the conference last year.
This year, the Black and Gold have been paced by the league’s top offense that through 10 games lead the league with 171 shots and 23 goals. Carlos Vela has been as good as expected with four goals, and goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau has allowed 10 goals in 10 starts.
LAFC just tied Eastern Conference leader Philadelphia. As long as their team stays healthy, the 3252 rooting section (LAFC’s rabid fans) should be cheering well into the playoffs.
A Galaxy above
Coach Greg Vanney’s squad has to live with the burden of history. No MLS club has been more successful. The Galaxy has won five MLS Cups and been in the finals four times. It is one of the charter members of the league.
The Galaxy was eighth in the Western Division last year and just missed out on a playoff spot thanks to a goal by Real Salt Lake on the season’s last day. Unlike their LA rivals, the Galaxy has built their impressive start on defense. Goalie Jonathan Bond has started the season with five shutouts through the first 10 games, the most in MLS.
Javier Balcazar leads the team with five goals and the Galaxy ranks second in the league in passing efficiency (amount of connected passes). So it’s the offense of LAFC against the defense of the Galaxy.
That’s a familiar theme in professional sports.
Galaxy vs. LAFC, a well-trafficked story
When Chivas USA shut down operations, the LAFC rose and built a stadium next to the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. The Galaxy has made a home in Carson, on the campus of California State University.
The two teams have played 14 times and it has been one-sided. The Galaxy has bested LAFC six times, LAFC has won three times and there have been five draws.
In their first meeting this season, LAFC had a goal in stoppage time reversed for a questionable offsides call after video review, which gave the Galaxy a 2-1 win. Safe to say the LAFC fans remember that one.
They meet again on July 8 in Los Angeles.
Challengers to the LA hegemony
Austin FC is only in its second season as a franchise. But they’ve risen to second place in the Western Division, sandwiched between the two Los Angeles franchises.
Doubts remain about Austin FC, however, even though forward Sebastian Driussi leads the league with seven goals and midfielder Diego Fagundez has six assists. Austin FC may be the team that started hot against a weak early-season schedule.
The team in the Western Conference to worry about is FC Dallas. The squad sits in fourth place but has the best defense in MLS having only allowed seven goals through 10 games. Defense wins championships, and the FC Dallas offense is sure to come around.