The Los Angeles Galaxy and Los Angeles Football Club have now met twice in Major League Soccer’s latest nascent rivalry. And they have still never failed to produce a contender for MLS game of the season.
The second of three Traficos – the ingenious name given to the Southern California rivalry by fans of the two teams – didn’t offer up Zlatan Ibrahimovic heroics like the first. But it had just about everything else. Everything from pregame ugliness to a genuine derby feel to an enthralling match to Bob Bradley obscenities.
And just like the first, it had another stunning Galaxy comeback; or, depending on your perspective, another calamitous LAFC collapse.
The expansion side dominated MLS’ most successful franchise for 80 minutes. But four months after blowing a 3-0 lead on the road, it coughed up a 2-0 advantage at home, and very nearly coughed up all three points. Instead, it settled for a disheartening 2-2 draw, the source of profanity coursing from its head coaches mouth after the match.
To kick-start the rally, Ibrahimovic pounced on a dreadful Walker Zimmerman touch, then fed Romain Alessandrini in the penalty box. The Frenchman finish against the grain and got the Galaxy back in the game:
Five minutes later, 21-year-old Andre Horta, a highly-rated designated player signed from Benfica last month, marked his MLS debut with a costly mistake. His inexplicably ambitious back-pass was intercepted by Ola Kamara, and eventually all but walked into an empty net:
LAFC had been so crisp, so effective, so effervescent for the vast majority of the game. It had gone ahead via a Carlos Vela header less than seven minutes in. Lee Nguyen doubled the lead with a free kick. At the other end, Jordan Harvey was holding of Ibrahimovic in the air. Zimmerman was denying Kamara with last-ditch blocks.
The hosts were in control, and their fans buoyant, just as they had been back in March. Attacks flowed. Golden flags twirled in the Banc of California Stadium supporters’ end.
And LAFC very easily could have extended its lead at 2-0. Benny Feilhaber hit the post. So did Adama Diomande. So did Horta late on. Latif Blessing almost nicked a goal of Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham’s foot.
But out of nowhere, the upstarts capitulated. Goalkeeper Tyler Miller produced a stunning save to keep the score at 2-1 minutes before he was hung out to dry by Horta’s back-pass:
Between the 70th and 80th minutes, LAFC had nearly a half-dozen chances. It was on the front foot. Suddenly, the tide had turned. Vela even admitted afterward: “If there were five more minutes, we would have lost.”
They say rivalries can’t be manufactured. They say they need to define themselves. But through 180 minutes, El Trafico already feels like it has an extensive, authentic and compelling history. Because over 180 minutes, it has written two of the best narratives of the 2018 MLS season.
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