Javier “Chicarito” Hernandez was not able to play against LAFC due to a calf injury. He will miss the remaining games in the tournament. Photo by LA Galaxy.
By Jeremy Gonzalez, Sports Editor
A tragedy occurred Saturday night in the most recent clash of Los Angeles soccer titans in the MLS is Back Tournament.
But it wasn’t the LA Galaxy suffering the most lopsided defeat in El Trafico’s history. It was that Diego Rossi’s four-goal performance wasn’t shared by spectators in a sold-out stadium.
While the games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando were empty, the Galaxy’s goal wasn’t, thanks to Rossi’s four goals and strikes from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Mohamed El-Munir, giving LAFC a 6-2 victory over their crosstown rivals in Group F play.
With MLS MVP Carlos Vela absent from LAFC’s tournament roster due to family concerns, Diego Rossi stepped into the spotlight and put on a show for everyone who tuned in to ESPN to watch the game.
Rossi found the back of the net in the 13th, 75th, and 92nd minutes, plus a goal during stoppage time at the end of the first half. Rossi first converted from the penalty spot after Wright-Phillips went down in the 18-yard box and then hit three first-time finishes with his right foot for the other goals.
The Galaxy opened up the scoring in the fifth minute via an own goal by Latif Blessing. Rossi’s penalty kick tied the game 1-1 and Galaxy took the lead again in the 31st minute when Cristian Pavon converted a penalty of his own to make it 2-1.
LAFC began to put the game out of reach when they took a 3-2 lead in the 56th minute through Wright-Phillips. El-Munir fired home a left-footed rocket in the 80th minute to make it 5-2, providing the exclamation point on LAFC’s dominant second half performance.
“I thought we had a good first half,” Pavon said in the postgame conference. “We were able to apply pressure and played our game and we scored goals. We fell apart in the second half and it was unlucky that we lost.”
After the four-goal performance, Rossi moved into a tie with Toronto FC forward Ayo Akinola for the tournament’s Golden Boot. Both players have five goals heading into their respective team’s final match.
The 6-2 scoreline gave LAFC the most lopsided victory in El Trafico history and brought the all-time series level with two wins, two losses and three ties for each team across all competitions.
Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez did not play in the match against LAFC due to a calf injury he suffered in training. Galaxy head coach Guillermo Barros Schletto said that Hernandez is likely out for three weeks while he nurses the calf back to full strength.
Group F Standings
After the second round of Group F matches wrapped up on Saturday, the Portland Timbers secured their spot in the knockout stages after defeating the Houston Dynamo 2-1. Portland currently own the top spot in Group F with six points. LAFC moved into second place after Saturday’s win with four points. Houston sits in third place with one point from their tie with LAFC in the first match and the Galaxy are in last place with zero points via two losses.
LA Galaxy will face Houston in their final Group F matchup on Thursday July 23 at 5 p.m on Fox Sports 1. Both teams will be looking for their first win in the tournament. These two teams faced off in the first game of the MLS season back in February, ending in a 1-1 draw in Houston. The winner of this game will be looking to sneak into the knockout stages as one of the better third place teams remaining in the tournament. A loss would send either team home early.
Portland and LAFC will face off on July 23 at 7:30 p.m on ESPN Deportes and ESPN2, with the group’s top spot on the line. A victory or tie for the Timbers will see them win the group. LAFC can win the group if the team emerges victorious over Portland.