LAFC manager Bob Bradley said that he kept defender Laurent Ciman out of Friday's 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy because the player is not "fully focused at the moment" amid transfer rumors.
They secured the result despite losing center-back Danilo Silva to what a team spokesman described as hamstring tightness, and the visitors fell behind to Zlatan Ibrahimovic's 14th-minute opener, but equalized in the second half thanks to Carlos Vela's 51st-minute penalty.
And with substitute center-back Dejan Jakovic partnering Walker Zimmerman in the center of defense, LAFC got stronger as the game went on, and had it managed to finish some clear chances late, might have walked away with their first victory over their El Trafico rivals.
"I thought our football got better and better as the game went on," Bradley said. "We weren't quite sharp enough in the final moments in the second half. In that regard, I think we have chances, if we're a little bit better to get the second, but our big takeaway from the game is that in terms of sticking together and dealing with that kind of game, the guys did great."
Yet much of the postgame discussion centered on Ciman, who has been a key contributor this season for LAFC, and Bradley said he spoke with the defender the day before the match and described it as "a good talk."
"I love Laurent, but I don't think that he's fully focused in the moment, and when there's other things going on, I will defend the team at the highest level," Bradley said afterward. "I had a good talk with Laurent yesterday and said, 'Look, right now, let's see if we can get things squared away for you.'
"He wasn't going to start this match because Walker was our choice for this game. I thought Walker played really well in the first match against the Galaxy and did the same tonight, did fantastic. I think Dejan came on, and handled his part of it.
"Look, Laurent has been an important guy. He's passionate, but he's also emotional, and he's a guy that when his emotions are running high, sometimes it's not always clear if he's ready, especially for a game like that."
When asked if Ciman had played his last game for LAFC, Bradley said he did not know, but stressed he would always put the needs of the team first.
"Football is a funny business," he said. "At the end of the day, I hope not because he's a player who has given a lot. I think we've also given him a lot. Every step of the way this year, he's been recognized, for his play, his leadership, for his passion, every part of it. It's a two-way street.
"But holding everybody to the highest standards, especially in the biggest games, that's key. I'd be kicking myself out the door if you've got a bunch of guys giving everything they have on the field in a game like that and you feel like somebody's not into it in the right way.
"That's how you set the bar high for everyone. I've always done that and I'm not going to change that part now."