Zlatan, Vela score in Galaxy’s 1-1 El Trafico draw with LAFC
CARSON, Calif. (AP) — The LAFC supporters were roaring in the StubHub Center stands two hours before kickoff. They stayed late afterward, prompting some LA Galaxy fans to take offense and a cordon of police officers moved in to separate the factions.
This rivalry is only three games old, but it already has the feisty flavor of an ancient grudge.
And for the second straight meeting, the Galaxy and LAFC couldn’t produce a winner in a game that had just about everything else.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his 499th career goal in the first half, and Carlos Vela converted a penalty early in the second half of the Galaxy’s 1-1 draw with LAFC on Friday night in the third edition of the new rivalry game dubbed El Trafico.
“It’s a rivalry game for sure,” Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid said. “You could sense it. You could feel it. It’s the rivalry that brought a lot of the intensity out.”
Both Los Angeles clubs’ biggest stars scored in front of a sellout crowd of 27,068 that packed the Galaxy’s stadium for what has already become one of Major League Soccer’s best derbies. Three sections full of LAFC supporters never stopped cheering after their late-afternoon arrival while separated from the Galaxy faithful by dozens of security guards in the aisles.
“I’ve got to be honest, I was a little surprised that their supporters were able to sit right there,” Schmid said of StubHub’s prime supporters’ section in the lower northwest corner of the stadium. “I know in other places where I’ve coached, usually the visiting supporters are as far from the field as possible. So maybe that’s something we’ve got to look at.”
Ibrahimovic reached the precipice of the 500-goal milestone crossed only by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo among active players, and the Galaxy hung on late to finish their first regular-season series against their expansion rivals with one victory and two draws.
“It doesn’t mean nothing,” Ibrahimovic said of the series victory. “I would prefer to win the trophy than to win against them. It was an easy game. We were much better than them.”
Ibrahimovic put the Galaxy ahead in the 15th minute when he chested down a sharp cross from Ola Kamara and poked it toward goal. The referee initially thought LAFC defender Danilo Silva had managed to clear it off the line, but video review confirmed the score.
With his 16th goal in 20 appearances for the Galaxy, Ibrahimovic reached the brink of his 500th career goal for club and country. Only Messi and Ronaldo have more than the Swedish superstar who has been outstanding since his arrival in Southern California five months ago.
Not everything about his performance impressed LAFC coach Bob Bradley, however.
“Ibra, maybe he can’t quite run down the field the way he did when he was younger … but he’s smart,” Bradley said. “He fouls a lot. He dove (and got a yellow card), so there’s that.”
LAFC evened it when Vela drew his penalty from Galaxy defender Perry Kitchen, who slid into his Vela’s deep in the box. Vela then put a high shot well past David Bingham in the 51st minute for his ninth goal in 20 games with the expansion club.
“It’s tough to win these games,” Vela said. “We have to work hard because we need every point to be in the playoff.”
Although both teams missed on thrilling late scoring chances in their final regular-season meeting of LAFC’s inaugural year, the third edition of this derby seemed less freewheeling and more mean-tempered than the previous two. That’s no surprise: Both teams are contending for playoff berths deep in the dwindling regular season.
LAFC (12-7-7) earned the 43rd point of its debut season to push the club past Sporting Kansas City into second place in the Western Conference standings. The Galaxy (10-9-8) pulled into a fourth-place tie in the West with their 38th point despite playing without injured stars Romain Alessandrini and Giovani Dos Santos.
The short-handed Galaxy couldn’t mount a third straight theatrical comeback in this rivalry game, instead barely surviving golden late chances for LAFC’s Benny Feilhaber, Latif Blessing and Diego Rossi.
The Galaxy rallied from three goals down to win the electrifying inaugural edition March 31, with Ibrahimovic scoring the tying and winning goals. The Galaxy then rallied from a two-goal deficit with nine minutes left to force a draw in their first trip to Banc of California Stadium last month.