LAFC, Galaxy ready for round two of this season’s El Trafico series

Just over a month ago, LAFC and the Galaxy took their El Trafico rivalry to Orlando in the MLS is Back Tournament.

LAFC might have been at a disadvantage with Carlos Vela choosing to opt out and remain at home with his pregnant wife.

The Galaxy led 2-1 and then watched as LAFC, led by Diego Rossi, scored the final five goals for a 6-2 rout.

The scene shifts back to the Banc of California Stadium as the clubs restart their season again.

“It would’ve been a good prediction to think that we would start by playing the Galaxy,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said Thursday. “That’s something that everyone always appreciates and enjoys.”

The last two head-to-head meetings have been thoroughly enjoyed by LAFC. Last season, in the Western Conference semifinals, LAFC scored five goals for its first win over the Galaxy and then came last month’s shellacking.

Complicating matters for the Galaxy is the return of Vela for LAFC. Vela has scored seven goals against the Galaxy.

“It was very hard to see my team play,” Vela said of the MLS is Back Tournament. “They played really well. Sometimes you have to decide that family is first, that’s why I made that decision. But I’m happy to be back.

“I’ve been training every day. We’re preparing our team to finally win a championship. That’s our goal.”

Championship dreams were once high on the Galaxy’s list, but right now, the club is far from it. Through five games (two regular season and three group games in Orlando), the Galaxy have just two points and sit in last place in the Western Conference.

“I think there’s always an element of pressure when you play for a club like this, especially when you have your next door neighbors doing well,” Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget said. “In our last encounter, they got the better of us, even though I thought we were the better team for 70 minutes, our energy died down in that game and they took over, but we approach every game the same, there’s always a bit of spiciness against this team, but we know what we have to do, there’s no two ways about it.

“We’ve got to get our first W (win) of this year and that’s all we’re really focused on.”

The Galaxy will be without Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, who suffered a calf injury in the MLS is Back Tournament and has yet to rejoin the team in training.

Jonathan dos Santos will return for the Galaxy after missing the tournament due to hernia surgery. The Galaxy’s captain has only played 45 minutes this season.

“For me it was very difficult not being with the team in Orlando,” dos Santos said. “I knew it was an important part to start the season, but I knew the main thing was my health and unfortunately, my injury came two weeks before Orlando.

“It’s my first week training with the team. I don’t feel 100 percent but I feel good. I know that we have to get that confidence. It’s difficult when you’re losing. It’s important to help each other and concentrate every second, every minute, game, every training.”

Dos Santos said he wasn’t 90-minutes fit, adding that he felt he’s good for 35-45 minutes, which would certainly complicate matters for Galaxy coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto, if he had to use an early sub.

“The last Galaxy game, yes we did get a good result, but I think they won the first half,” LAFC midfielder Mark Anthony Kaye said. “They were very aggressive with their press and they clogged up the middle (of the field) which is what teams are going to do, so we know that’s something they’re going to bring and we just have to be ready to match that. We gained a lot of confidence getting out of that game the way we did.

“With Carlos, it adds a different dynamic, so now they have to be aware of this prolific winger on the field at all times and I don’t know if it will change up the way they’re going to play, but we’re definitely going to raise our intensity.”

GALAXY (0-3-2, two points) vs. LAFC (2-0-3, nine points)

Where: Banc of California Stadium

TV/Radio: FOX/11; KSPN/710; KFWB/980; KTMZ/1220

Outlook: The game will be played without fans, but LAFC will recreate the matchday experience with audio of supporter chants and virtual fan reactions. LAFC has scored 11 goals in the last two meetings against the Galaxy. The teams will meet again Sept. 6 at Dignity Health Sports Park.