LA Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney believes the “pressure of expectations” weighs on the winners of the MLS Supporters’ Shield 2022 LAFC in Thursday’s Western Conference playoff game.
The game at LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium will be just the second time the Crosstown rivals have met in an MLS Cup playoff game, the first of which LAFC secured a dramatic 5-3 victory in 2019.
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“Winning in the [regular] The season is a bit different from winning in a knockout tournament,” said Vanney, who won a Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup double in 2017 with Toronto FC, on Wednesday. “It comes with the pressure of expectations.
“There can be more pressure, and again, the circumstances for winning knockout games are not always the same as for winning regular season games. We’ll see, it’s up to us to put the pressure on. on them tomorrow and see if they can handle it.”
Vanney said he thinks this Galaxy team is superior to the team that was defeated in 2019, even without former star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was with the 2018-19 squad.
“It’s a better team than that. It’s not for me to really say, but I’ll say it. We definitely have more going for us than this group,” Vanney said. “It’s going to be a really exciting game tomorrow. They’re two teams that can really attack, two teams that can be stingy defensively, but can attack and hurt you at any time.”
Mexican striker Javier Hernandez has since taken Ibrahimovic’s place on the Galaxy front line, meaning the next El Trafico playoff will be the first time he faces fellow countryman and LAFC DP Carlos Vela in an MLS post-season game.
“Of course, 100%,” Hernandez said when asked if the Los Angeles Derby was the best rivalry in MLS. “Players who have been in this organization, the city and of course LA Galaxy is the biggest organization here, so having a very direct rival makes everything more interesting.”
Whether “Chicharito” is more of a threat to LAFC’s Vela than Ibrahimovic in the playoffs remains to be seen, according to Vela, who said it’s difficult to compare and contrast Hernandez and the former Sweden international.
“At the end of the day, having Zlatan gives you different options than ‘Chicharito’ gives you,” Vela said at a press conference on Tuesday. “I think if you look player by player it’s difficult. At the end of the day it’s complicated because it’s a matter of preference.”
LAFC first-year head coach Steve Chreundolo says his team may have the upper hand, largely because of the consistency they’ve shown en route to the Supporters’ Shield this season. . LAFC have also added quality this season, bringing in European stars like striker Gareth Bale and defender Giorgio Chiellini, as well as other under-the-radar signings up front in Cristian Tello and Denis Bouanga.
“We’ve been pretty consistent all year in how we win games, how we play, how we score,” Cherundolo said on Tuesday. “It’s definitely an advantage in games where only one team can advance. We know what we can do and we know how to do it.”
However, the LAFC manager added that he doesn’t want to dwell on his club’s recent silverware either.
“The regular season is over,” Cherundolo said. “It ended with LAFC as the Champions of the Supporters’ Shield. We forgot about it. We put that on the building shelf and we’re moving on. It doesn’t mean anything.”
The Galaxy have history on their side in the rivalry, winning two of their three meetings and holding an all-time regular season record of 6-3-5 in the series.
The teams split their two regular season fixtures, but the Galaxy won a US Open Cup Round of 16 game on the road against LAFC on May 25.