MLS Giorgio Chiellini could debut for LAFC in rivalry game with Galaxy

One of North America’s best budding soccer rivalries is the hotly contested “El Trafico” between the Los Angeles Galaxy, a Major League Soccer original franchise, and fifth-year team Los Angeles FC.

The rivalry between the two teams separated by a few miles of freeway renews Friday night at South L.A.’s Banc of California Stadium, home of LAFC.

The home side is in first place in the Western Conference, its 11-4-3 record and 36 points the top marks in the league. The Galaxy (8-6-3, 27 points) are in fourth place, but are 7-3-5 all-time against LAFC.

The Galaxy have two wins over their rivals this season, a 2-1 win in MLS regular season play April 9 and a 3-1 triumph in U.S. Open Cup competition on May 25. The Galaxy are unbeaten in five consecutive games against LAFC dating back to May 8, 2021, with three wins and two draws.

“To have a hard, intense, committed effort … is what it’s going to take against LAFC,” Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney said. “They’ve got players who can hurt you.”

One of those could be defender Giorgio Chiellini, who came over from Italy’s Juventus last month in a major signing by LAFC and is set for his debut Friday. Forward Gareth Bale, the biggest signing for LAFC at midseason, is doubtful to debut Friday due to ongoing international paperwork matters, LAFC coach Steve Cherundolo said this week.

But Chiellini, previously a fixture on Italy’s national team, is a welcome addition to a team already loaded with talent.

“His ability to communicate on the field and his leadership skills have already been felt and already affected some of the guys,” Cherundolo said. “Any time you add players like that there’s also an effect on the other players’ performance and concentration levels, which have been stepped up a notch.”

LAFC has scored a goal in 35 straight home matches in league play, tied for the third-longest streak in MLS history, according to the league website. That includes at least two goals in seven of their last eight home games.

–Field Level Media

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