Los Angeles – No way to be unbiased about this one.
The Los Angeles Galaxy are kings of Los Angeles once again after defeating crosstown rivals LAFC at home 2-1 in El Tráfico in front of a sell-out crowd on Saturday.
A slew of unlikely heroes stepped up for the Galaxy dealing with midfielder Mark Delgado’s suspension through a red card.
Kelvin Leerdam started at center defensive midfield to cover for Delgado, and Galaxy Head Coach Greg Vanney claimed he “did a nice, solid job. About as good as we could ask him to do. I’m proud of him.”
Center Back Séga Coulibaly scored what would be the game-winner for his first Galaxy goal, and Goalkeeper Jonathan Bond made vital saves to preserve the victory.
A Game of Inches
The hero who saved the day for the Galaxy is VAR, however.
LAFC had three goals disallowed for offside, the most controversial being the game-tying goal Latif Blessing thought he scored on 98 minutes.
And while replays show that Referee Chris Penso ultimately made the right calls, it takes away from a grueling and emotional Galaxy victory by becoming the talking point of a match the Galaxy earned.
The blue, white, and gold would use that emotion to start the game locked in.
Good defensive pressing allowed the Galaxy to recover the ball deep in LAFC territory, and Victor Vázquez found Sam Grandsir on the left wing.
The Frenchman would stand up his defender and send a looping cross to the back post for Javier “Chicharito” Hernández to rise and head the ball under LAFC goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau’s legs for the lead on 12 minutes.
Grandsir would also be instrumental in the second goal after combining well with Raheem Edwards on the left wing.
Edwards had an excellent game himself and was voted man of the match by Galaxy players. His rampaging runs deep into the opposition’s final third are becoming the Canadian defender’s trademark, and he should have been rewarded with a goal for his efforts on the day.
The left-back is the league’s assist leader. He picked up his fifth of the season after sending in a lofted ball to Grandsir, who did well to control with his chest, bringing it down and sending a driven pass to the back post. Coulibaly met it, struck it low and true, to make the score 2-0 and notch his first goal in Galaxy colors. It was indicative of an afternoon where everyone on the team stepped up to grab their moments and contribute.
Play it again, Sam
It was the second game running where Grandsir gets himself the start and an assist, and getting two on the biggest stage in Los Angeles, El Tráfico, will surely keep him in Vanney’s plans.
The Galaxy boss was sure to acknowledge the winger’s contributions for another great performance.
“Sam [Grandsir] is working hard. The only thing that I’ve only ever wanted from Sam is just consistency. And, that goes with his work on the defending side. Work on the attacking side. Position discipline a little bit. So, he has been giving us that, and he’s impacting the game. And, when you can do those things, you’re going to be on the field and helping your team get results,” Vanney explained. “So, I thought Sam put a great shift in for 60 minutes, and he gave us something to help us make a difference in the game. And, he did last week, too, to be fair.”
The captain, Chicharito, also made sure to hype Grandsir while praising his ability to seize his starting chances.
“I’ve been talking a lot personally with him [Grandsir] because sometimes you’re on the bench, and sometimes you need to wait for your opportunities, and it’s complicated because you’re not in rhythm I think Sam is a clear example… They’re valued assets because they train so hard and they make us better players. They’re waiting for their opportunity like Sam, who did amazing.”
The two Grandsir provided goals within 31 minutes should have ended the game, especially with the Galaxy’s many chances to get a third or even a fourth goal.
But the old Achilles heel of not finishing chances would almost be their undoing.
The second half was a barrage of pressure against Bond’s goal, who ended the match with six saves, and the pressure finally resulted in an LAFC goal in the 78th minute.
LAFC would take advantage of the Galaxy switching off defensively to work a quick throw-in into Carlos Vela, whose shot was scored off the rebound by Cristian Arango.
It was set up an even more tension-filled ending as LAFC searched for a tying goal.
And they thought had done it in the 97th minute when Latif Blessing seized on a loose ball in the box to stab home into the top of the net.
The celebrations were to be sure short-lived, however, as the goal was reviewed and correctly called back for offside.
It would ensure a Galaxy win, dealing LAFC their first loss of the season, and that they’d remain unbeaten at home in five years against their L.A. neighbors.
Edwards, who played for LAFC just last year, voiced just how special the win and the fixture are.
“Electric, man. These games are electric. These games are so high intensity…. And, there’s always drama. Whether you wanted or not, there’s always going to be drama,” the assist leader said. “This is the type of game this game brings. You know, the derby as you know, MLS markets it as the biggest derby in the league, and everyone’s eyes are on it. Not even just in North America. In Europe as well.”
It has to be, with nothing less than L.A. pride on the line.
And there’s no way to be unbiased about it.
The Galaxy can claim to rule Los Angeles; the 2-1 El Tráfico scoreline confirms it.