New on Sports Illustrated: Galaxy-Los Angeles FC Preview

August 22, 2020 at 06:35AM

While the moniker of the "El Trafico" derby for Saturday's matchup between Los Angeles FC and the Los Angeles Galaxy may not apply since fans will not be in attendance at Banc of California Stadium, neither team is expected to let up in terms of derby intensity.

The teams have split seven all-time meetings, with each club winning twice and splitting the points on three occasions. The sides have also had high-scoring affairs in most of those matchups – there have been four or more goals in six of the seven games, and eight in each of the last two.

LAFC (2-0-3) has won the last two meetings, including a group play showdown last month in the MLS Is Back tournament. Playing without reigning MVP Carlos Vela – who opted out of the tournament to be with his family with his pregnant wife – Diego Rossi picked up the slack with a four-goal performance in a 6-2 victory July 18.

"Carlos is doing great," Bradley told LAFC's official website. "He gets so much credit for how he has worked hard while we were away. He wanted to be back with the team, and you could tell from the first day back how much it meant to him. He is really motivated for this game."

The former Mexico international scored two goals in LAFC's two matches before the pandemic and has been the Galaxy's bogeyman since arriving in MLS – Vela has scored in all six other meetings between the teams, racking up nine goals.

LAFC reached the quarterfinals of MLS Is Back, upending defending MLS Cup champion Seattle before losing to Orlando City on penalties. Bradley, though, thinks his team has been in the right frame of mind throughout everything that has transpired, recalling his side's effort versus Leon in the CONCACAF Champions League before the pandemic.

"It seems so long ago, but we played such a good game against Leon. We pushed the game and didn't give up many chances," he said. "Then we went to Orlando and even without playing for so many months, we pushed the tempo and created a lot of chances there. So we see it. Of course in the process there are different situations and reactions that we will continue to improve upon."

In the unlikely event neither Vela nor Rossi ignite, Bradley could turn to veteran striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, who scored in four of the five matches in Orlando and is seventh on the league's all-time list with 111 goals.

The Galaxy (0-3-2) made a surprising three-and-out exit from MLS Is Back, claiming just one point from their three matches – a 1-1 draw versus Houston after defeats to Portland and Los Angeles FC. Coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto has tried various combinations of personnel and formations with little success, and those are issues are compounded by the absence of Vela's former El Tri teammate Chicharito Hernandez, who is sidelined with a torn calf suffered in Orlando.

"He's not ready. He's not training yet," Schelotto told the Los Angeles Times about Hernandez. "I don't know when he'll be ready but I hope as soon as possible because we need him. We need a player like him on the pitch."

Without Chicharito, the scoring burden will again fall upon Cristian Pavon, who has accounted for three of the Galaxy's five goals. While the Galaxy did sign Colombian winger Yony Gonazlaez on loan from Portuguese side Benfica on Wednesday, visa paperwork means he will not be available for the derby.

"Yony is a dynamic playmaker who we believe can strengthen our attack this year," said LA Galaxy Manager Dennis te Kloese in a statement. "He possesses a diverse skillset and will be an important addition to our roster. We look forward to welcoming Yony to Los Angeles and his contributions to our club this year."

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