Major League Soccer

Steve Cherundolo on the importance of El Trafico

Lizzy Becherano
Los Angeles Football Club head coach Steve Cherundolo prepares for the daunting El Trafico.
Los Angeles Football Club head coach Steve Cherundolo prepares for the daunting El Trafico. / Michael Reaves/GettyImages
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LAFC is set to face LA Galaxy on Saturday at Dignity Health Sports Park for the first El Trafico of the 2022 Major League Soccer campaign. 

The Black & Gold have been successful against their arch-rivals in the past, triumphing over the Galaxy in the 2019 MLS Cup playoffs. But LAFC struggles as the away team, failing to earn a win in their last six meetings at Dignity Health Sports Park.

Now, head coach Steve Cherundolo insists a victory is crucial to prove themselves. 

"This is important for the club to be successful. It's an opportunity. I see this as a great opportunity and see the positive in that. I think that's what you focus on: Focus on the feeling of winning a game there and how you would feel after that."

Cherundolo’s side kicked off the season strong, standing atop of the Western Conference table as one of only three teams left unbeaten. The team also boasts a three-match winning streak, seeing the 1-1 against the Portland Timbers as the only negative result of their 2022 campaign thus far. 

LA Galaxy, on the other end, have seen a successful start as well. Vanney’s side stands in third on the Western Conference table with nine points and a record of 3-0-2.

But both sides know, El Trafico goes beyond numbers and statistics. 

"It's a balance of managing the pressure that some would say is fake, if you will, or built up. And then also being focused on the raw tactics of each game that are out there. So, this is what our message to the players this week, is managing both,” revealed Cherundolo. 

"Those who have been involved in these games in the past have passed on those experiences, what has happened, what plays during those 90 minutes, before the game and postgame as well, and also what worked and what didn't. So, we are absolutely using those past experiences to put ourselves in a better a position this Saturday. 

“Having players who have been part of it in the past can be good. It can also hurt you. I'm trying to approach things like this in a transparent way and we will speak about of all this. Players will be informed, will be aware and we'll do everything in our power to make LAFC successful Saturday."

Saturday’s match will also see former Mexico national team stars Carlos Vela and Chicharito face off in Major League Soccer for the first time, adding another layer to the already daunting match. The two figures have been crucial in their respective team’s success, with both Chicharito and Vela scoring four goals so far. 

"It's awesome for the league, it's awesome for us," Cherundolo said. "It should be an amazing game, I'm assuming a lot of the fans will come as well. I'm looking forward to any football event in the United States that has an engaged crowd, sold-out crowd, a lot of quality on the field."

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