LA Galaxy's Greg Vanney: LAFC have 'pressure of expectation'

Who will come out on top in El Trafico? (1:46)

Sebastian Salazar and Herculez Gomez predict the winner of LAFC vs. LA Galaxy in the MLS Cup playoffs. (1:46)

LA Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney believes that the "pressure of expectation" is on 2022 MLS Supporters' Shield winners LAFC in Thursday's Western Conference playoff game.

The game at LAFC's Banc of California Stadium will be just the second time that the crosstown rivals have met in an MLS Cup playoff match, the first of which LAFC won in a dramatic 5-3 victory in 2019.

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"Winning in the [regular] season is a little bit different than winning in a knockout tournament," Vanney, who won a Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup double in 2017 with Toronto FC, said on Wednesday. "That comes with the pressure of expectation.

"There can be more pressure, and again, the circumstances to winning knockout games aren't always the same as winning regular season games. We'll see, it's for us to put the pressure on them tomorrow and see if they can handle it."

Vanney said he believes this Galaxy side is superior to the squad that was defeated in 2019, even without former star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was with the team from 2018-19.

"This is a better team than that one. It's not for me to really say, but I'll say it. We have certainly more going for us than that group," Vanney said. "It'll make for a really exciting game tomorrow. It's two teams that can really attack, two teams who can be stingy defensively, but can attack and hurt you at any moment."

Mexico striker Javier Hernandez has since taken Ibrahimovic's place in the Galaxy frontline, which means the upcoming playoff edition of El Trafico will be the first time that he plays against countryman and LAFC DP Carlos Vela in an MLS postseason game.

"For sure, 100%," Hernandez said when asked if the LA derby is the best rivalry in MLS. "The players that have been in this organization, the city and because of course LA Galaxy is the biggest organization here, so having a very direct rival makes everything more interesting."

Whether "Chicharito" is more of a threat to LAFC's Vela than Ibrahimovic in the playoffs remains to be seen, according to Vela, who said it's tough to compare and contrast Hernandez and the former Sweden international.

"In the end, having Zlatan gives you different options than what 'Chicharito' gives you," Vela said in a press conference on Tuesday. "I think if you look player by player, it's hard. Ultimately, it's complicated because it's a matter of preference."

LAFC's first-year head coach Steve Chreundolo said it's possible his team could have the upper hand, in large part because of the consistency it showed en route the Supporters' Shield this season. LAFC has also added quality this season, bringing in European stars like attacker Gareth Bale and defender Giorgio Chiellini, as well as more under-the-radar signings up front in Cristian Tello and Denis Bouanga.

"We've been quite consistent all year with how we win games, how we play, how we score," Cherundolo said on Tuesday. "That is certainly an advantage going into games where only one team can advance. We know what we can do and we know how to do it."

However, the LAFC coach added he doesn't want to dwell on his club's recent silverware either.

"Regular season has ended," Cherundolo said. "It ended with LAFC as the Supporters' Shield champions. We have forgotten that. We have put that on the shelf in the building and we are moving on. That means nothing."

The Galaxy have history on their side in the rivalry, winning two of their three meetings and holding a 6-3-5 all-time regular season record in the series.

The teams split their two regular season meetings, but the Galaxy won a U.S. Open Cup round-of-16 match on the road against LAFC on May 25.