In a fixture that always delivers drama, the LA Galaxy lost their El Trafico clash with LAFC on Thursday in the most heartbreaking fashion.
Having twice clawed themselves level, including in the 85th minute through substitute Dejan Joveljic, the Galaxy were seen off in the 93rd minute by Cristian Arango, ending their MLS Cup Playoffs return at the Western Conference semi-finals stage.
Defeat against their arch-rivals would’ve been hard to take anyway for the Galaxy but to see the game slip away so late only adds to the pain.
However, reaching this stage is a vast improvement for a team that had missed out on the Playoffs for two years running. Not only that, the Galaxy dominated large stretches at Banc of California Stadium, with the likes of Riqui Puig and Gaston Brugman dictating possession.
Disappointment, yes, but optimism is back in the air around Major League Soccer’s most successful club.
“Ultimately, I think it was a big step forward,” head coach Greg Vanney said of the Galaxy’s 2022 season. “We’ve been trying to rebuild the team over the past couple of years and I think we’ve taken big steps forwards over the past couple of years to rebuild this group.
“I think we’ve created a vision now of how we want to play. I think it’s exciting, attacking soccer and we want to have a lot of the ball and we want to have a group that’s connected and believes that it can win championships and we can get the club back on top.”
Alongside Puig and Brugman, the Galaxy have some exciting talent in Dejan Joveljic, Raheem Edwards et al to complement the veteran quality of Chicharito.
Team spirit and cohesion are high and as the 2022 season went on, the connections within the group only became stronger – evidenced by a run of just one defeat in the Galaxy’s final 11 regular-season matches.
“I’ve seen the group kind of grow together as men and the qualities of the group,” Vanney added. “For us it’s just continuing to grow. We have a lot of very good pieces. We got a group that it’s now connected. They’ve never been connected before in that locker room and trusting each other and working for each other. So, we have a lot to be proud of and I look forward as we continue to build forward.”
While Chicharito agreed with his head coach, he was a little harsher in his observation, perhaps a little more desperate to get the Galaxy back to their previous levels quicker with the end of his career fast approaching.
“The positive thing is comparing last season when we didn’t go to the playoffs, then we came to the semifinal of the conference against the best team in the league these days,” the former Mexico international said. “We grew a lot, but for this organization, it’s not enough. The standards are as high as they can [be]. Winning trophies, playing finals at least. So yeah, we’re very disappointed.”
Watch the story of Charlotte FC’s journey to MLS in 90min’s The Making of Charlotte FC, presented by DoorDash, on 90min channels now. Subscribe to our new US YouTube channel.