In the aftermath of LAFC’s 2-1 setback Saturday night against the LA Galaxy, head coach Bob Bradley was quick to label Jonathan dos Santos’ game-winner a “careless moment,” at least from the visitor’s perspective.
Center back Jesus David Murillo was dispossessed near the corner flag by LA homegrown teenager Cameron Dunbar, who sent a low cross into Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. The early Golden Boot presented by Audi leader chopped his way past Tristan Blackmon, and a hopeful ball was punched home by dos Santos at the back post in the 79th minute.
Momentum in the season’s first El Trafico shifted toward the Carson crew, and the Black & Gold never quite mustered a response.
“When we went down 2-1, our response at that time wasn't collective enough and strong enough,” Bradley said matter-of-factly. “Some poor fouls that allowed them to waste some time and not enough sustained attacking to get back to 2-2.”
Roughly a quarter-hour earlier, in the 62nd minute, LAFC drew level through Diego Rossi’s first tally of the year. The Uruguayan forward combined with Latif Blessing and Corey Baird, with their sweeping move instilling hope that a road victory could emerge from the derby.
Rossi’s strike was the culmination of periods of dominance, where LAFC forced Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond into several key saves. During the first half, Bradley’s group even sometimes played with one center back (Murillo) deep in possession, allowing Blackmon and Eddie Segura to advance upfield and create overloads.
By game’s end, LAFC won the shots battle (17-11), expected goals charge (1.5-1) and possession tug-of-war (61.1%-38.9%). But their control couldn’t procure three points, with LAFC now winless since opening with a Week 1 dispatch of expansion side Austin FC.
“In certain situations, we left too many gaps and they were on top of second balls," Bradley said. "And then when we went to get tight, we were late and made so many poor fouls late in the game that just allowed the game to slow down and take away our chances to push. I thought at 1-1, we needed to really take control and finish them off. Just didn't find a way to do it, so that part, I'm not satisfied.”
LAFC continued to play without Carlos Vela, the 2019 Landon Donovan MLS MVP. Asked about Vela’s injury, Bradley noted they’ve grown accustomed to playing without their star forward after he made just four starts (seven appearances) during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign. On opening weekend, he was removed after 22 minutes.
“He was back in a little bit of training this week, still not able to really push things at full speed,” Bradley said. “It's a minor quad injury, but for a footballer, a quad injury is something that you can't always put an exact timeline on.
“We've played a lot of games without Carlos in the last 18 months, so we've coped with it pretty well. We know how important he is to us, but we also know that we're a good team when we really push games and when guys are fully committed. We've done that, and so we've got to find the right way to move Carlos back into it so that he can be at his best when we think back to 2019 and then a little bit at the beginning of last season and a little bit at the end of last season.”
LAFC are winless in three, drawing Seattle at home before splitting the points at Houston last weekend. Then they dropped this crucial rivalry match, with the all-time series now a 5W-3L-3D tilt in LA’s favor across all competitions.
The road ahead won’t get any easier, with a trip to the high-flying Sounders on the horizon next Sunday. Across all areas, Blackmon feels they need to fine-tune and sharpen up.
“At the end of the day, it's can we clean up things? Can we be better in the final third? Can we clean up shop in the defensive half? Just be better all around,” Blackmon posed. “Can we do things more intensely or with a bit more intelligence? It's just working on those details and refining things. I think it's a process always, but we're looking to get back as soon as we can and keep doing things better each day in training. That'll translate into games, so we're looking forward to that for sure, to keep working.”