Tuesday, November 30 2021
Los Angeles Galaxy forward Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez (14) during warm ups before an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
Star forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and the Galaxy will try to lean on culture and history to best LAFC on Sunday in an El Tráfico matchup. (Michael Wyke / Associated Press)

The stoppable force meets the movable object Sunday when the Galaxy play host to LAFC in the least anticipated renewal of the intercity MLS rivalry known as El Tráfico.

The Galaxy (11-11-5) have lost three in a row, are winless in eight straight, have scored just once in their last three games and haven’t led since the last El Tráfico in August.

LAFC (9-12-6) has lost three in a row, dropped a franchise-record 12 games this season and have led for just 17 minutes combined in its last four starts.

Since both teams can’t lose, at least one losing streak will come to an end Sunday.

But the freefalling Galaxy might have a slight edge. As a founding MLS franchise it has a history that LAFC, in its fourth season, can’t match — a fact the team will highlight just before kickoff when it unveils a bronze statue of Landon Donovan next to the one of David Beckham in Legends Plaza, outside the southwest entrance to Dignity Health Sports Park. At halftime, Donovan will be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor inside the stadium.

When times are tough and a team is struggling as much as the Galaxy, leaning on culture and tradition can provide a way through.

“The beauty of especially soccer around the world is there’s expectations to be lived up to. There’s a sense of responsibility to continue,” said Donovan, who retired in 2016 as the career leader in both goals and assists in MLS and with the U.S. national team.

“That’s the beauty of playing for a team that’s been in the league since Day 1.”

Galaxy striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, who played for giant clubs in Mexico, England and Spain before coming to MLS last year, agrees.

“Of course, it helps,” Hernández said of playing for the Galaxy, who have won a record 361 regular-season games and five league titles. “It brings me more passion, more responsibility and more desire to deliver good performances.”

That history can be a double-edged sword because it motivates the other team as well.

“The standards over here with this type of club, you have everything to lose and nothing to win,” said Hernández, whose team entered the weekend sixth in the Western Conference table. “You win, that’s normal. When you lose, that’s the part people aren’t used to.”

LAFC won’t have to look across the field to find its motivation Sunday. It can look at the standings. With just three wins in the last 10 weeks, the team entered the weekend ninth in the conference, two places and five points out of a playoff berth with seven games left. LAFC made the playoffs in each of its first three years, which is the history coach Bob Bradley leans on.

“We speak all the time about our history, about what we want it to be,” said Bradley, who will be without former league MVP Carlos Vela for an eighth straight game. “We challenge ourselves all the time to believe in what we set out to be, the identity of this club.”

Bradley also has a history with Donovan, having coached him for five years with the U.S. national team.

“When you’ve coached guys like Landon, the memories that you have of the work that we did together and the kind of teams we had, the experiences we shared, the challenges, those are always there,” he said.

On Sunday some of those memories will be set in bronze, only Donovan’s oversized likeness will be clad in a Galaxy shirt, a nod not only to the player’s accomplishments but to the team’s culture and tradition.

“Not many teams have the ability to do things like this. You have to earn it,” said Donovan, who won a record six MLS Cups in 15 seasons, 11 with the Galaxy. “And when you win multiple championships, when you have players who have been a part of your club for five, seven, 10-plus years, then you earn that.

“I’m sure LAFC will over time, just like the Galaxy have.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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