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MLS Cup Playoffs Conference Semifinals, Mexicans Abroad: What we learned

MLS: MLS Cup Conference Semifinals-LA Galaxy at Los Angeles FC Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Marco Fabian said goodbye to the Playoffs and maybe the Philadelphia Union, while LAFC finally beat the Galaxy in arguably the biggest “El Trafico” yet. Here is what we learned from the Conference Semifinals of the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Marco Fabian and the Philadelphia Union crash out

It just wasn’t meant to be. After winning their first ever postseason match in franchise history, the Philadelphia Union were no match for the defending champions Atlanta United as they lost 2-0 on Thursday in one of two Eastern Conference Semifinals. Just like in the previous matchup against the New York Red Bulls, Marco Fabian started this one on the bench, but not even his eventual second half introduction could stop his side from losing to a much better Atlanta United team.

As expected, with the Union’s exit come rumors of a potential Marco Fabian departure. From the start, his contract with the Union was only for one year, and with many reports in Mexico linking him back to Chivas, it might be a matter of time before we see Fabian back in Liga MX.

If this was indeed his last game with the Union, at best you can describe Fabian’s time in Philadelphia as “okay”, although he did manage to score a historic game-winner against the Red Bulls last week. At least we won’t get any more crappy basketball celebrations.

LAFC finally win El Trafico, beat the Galaxy at their own game

It finally happened! After six tries, LAFC got their first ever win over rivals LA Galaxy, beating them 5-3 at home to advance to the Western Conference Final. As per tradition, this was a wild one, and after LAFC jumped to a two-goal first half lead thanks to a Carlos Vela brace, it wasn’t until the second half that super sup Adama Diomande changed the course of the game with his own brace to give the home-side their biggest win yet in club history.

By all standards, this was an intelligent performance from LAFC, who in the past had struggled to cope mentally with the grandness of the occasion. Whether it was by design or not, LAFC forced the Galaxy into possession, essentially cutting off their counter attacking potential and forcing them to play with the ball (something the Galaxy weren’t used to much this season). As a result, the Galaxy looked sloppy, and Carlos Vela took complete advantage of that.

In fact, you got the feeling that a lot of that had to do with LAFC’s gameplan taking some of the pressure away from the team, and that really helped Vela dictate the game in transition, a trait which usually best describes Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the Galaxy. By giving the Galaxy the ball, LAFC not only found the necessary time to adjust defensively against Zlatan, but gave them a direct line to attack the Galaxy’s susceptible defense when hitting them on the counter. It was perfectly executed, and delightful to watch from an LAFC point of view.

Carlos Vela looked like a real leader

There was perhaps nobody more deserving of this victory than the captain himself. You could see it in the way he celebrated all of LAFC’s goals that this one meant a lot to him. It wasn’t just the fact that he was once again clearly the best player on the field, but for perhaps the first time this season, he showed clearly just how much he as grown as a leader.

No play showed this more than when Diego Rossi’s scored in the 66th minute. With the score tied at 2-2 and the momentum pointing more towards the Galaxy’s direction, Vela hustled his way past one defender before sending a beautiful through ball to Diego Rossi for the 3-2. It was probably at that exact moment where the atmosphere in the stadium changed to “here we go again” to “LAFC might be able to finally pull this off”.

For a guy whose commitment to the sport has been questioned all his career, there is no denying how much he wants to win the MLS Cup. You could see it in his body language, the way coaches and teammates talk about him, Vela means business. He is now just two games away from his final objective, and with the Galaxy finally out of the way, is there anybody that can stop him?