Top Takeaways: What went wrong for LAFC & right for LA Galaxy, plus big nights for Pity Martinez, Inter Miami | Steve Zakuani

Cristian Pavon - LA Galaxy - shoots - vs. LAFC - Aug. 22, 2020

One team got a much needed win, another got bragging rights, and an underperforming superstar reminded us of his quality.

What happened to LAFC? And the Galaxy?

Breathtaking. Dynamic. Unreal. Sensational. All of those words are accurate when describing LAFC over the past 12 months but there’s only one word to describe their performance in El Trafico: sluggish. I watch a lot of LAFC games and Saturday's 2-0 loss to the LA Galaxy is by far the worst I’ve ever seen them play.

Carlos Vela was understandably rusty and they badly missed Atuesta’s class on the ball in midfield, but the biggest concern with this 2020 LAFC team is their defending. As good as their attack was last year, a big reason for their success was the fact that they only conceded a league-low 37 goals. Just six games into the season and they have already given up just about one third of last season’s total. They score so many goals that on most nights it won’t matter how many they concede, but if you keep defending like this, you won’t win MLS Cup. That’s why Bob Bradley should be concerned. 

I do want to give the Galaxy the credit they deserve because they defended extremely well, were very efficient with their chances and were never in danger of losing this game. Barros Schelotto’s game plan — which was to be defensively compact and limit the space Vela, Diego Rossi and Brian Rodriguez like to operate in — was well executed, Cristian Pavon was exceptional, and in winning tonight, the Galaxy also showed that there is El Trafico life after Zlatan.

Pity shows why he’s the big-money man

As a club, Atlanta United have lost their way on and off the pitch in 2020. On Saturday night, they got a much-needed boost: a big performance from their star playmaker. 

I’ve never questioned the talent of Pity Martinez. He’s played in and excelled in some of the biggest games in South America, so there’s no doubting his quality. What I have questioned is whether his skill set suits the league. I was glad to be proven wrong, at least for now, as I watched him be the match winner in Atlanta's 2-0 win over Nashville.

There wasn’t much between the teams, and for much of the night Nashville looked nothing like an expansion team. The difference was Pity. His two goals captured his very best qualities. The way he danced through the Nashville backline for his first strike got me off my seat, while his second strike — a rocket into the top corner — confirmed the quality we all know he has but has too rarely shown so far in his MLS career. 

This was not a vintage Atlanta performance in any way. Nashville may even feel slightly hard done by, but Pity Martinez reminded us all why teams invest so much in stars who can decide a game on their own.

Miami finally get their moment

The most important win of the night belonged to David Beckham’s Inter Miami. It’s been a rough start for the expansion team, and I feared for them in this game because Oscar Pareja’s men were impressive in the MLS is Back Tournament. 

However, thanks to Rodolfo Pizarro’s 50th minute strike, they were able to secure their first points of the season. Miami didn’t dominate or play the most exhilarating football you’ll see, and they nearly let it slip away at the end. But when you’ve lost every game this season, you are just trying to win by any means necessary. 

Miami‘s season will now be determined by what happens next. Can they improve, build momentum and use this victory as the launch pad for a much-needed turnaround? In my view, if Pizarro can use the confidence he’s undoubtedly gained tonight to carry the team on his back when necessary, they can pick up a couple more wins in the next few games. 

Former MLS star winger Steve Zakuani was a No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft and played for the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers. He is currently a member of the Sounders broadcast team and has published a book "Rise Above" and a documentary "Unbreakable" surrounding his comeback from a serious injury which marked his playing days. He is also a coach at Bellevue High School and makes a difference in the lives of young athletes through his non-profit Kingdom Hope organization.