Galaxy still has the right to list El Trafico on LAFC
The anticipation for this part of El Trafico was just different. Eventually, Carlos Vela and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez would face off in MLS for the first time. The longtime friends had not faced each other in the Champions League group stage between Manchester United and Real Sociedad since 2013. They dominated the headlines from California to Mexico all week.
And after all that and a full 90 minutes of madness on Saturday at Carson, it was the final moments that mattered. Midway through the stoppage, Time Latif Blessing silenced the sell-out crowd at Dignity Health Sports Park after equalizing in a tie… until referee Chris Penso went to video review and overturned the call for offside.
The stadium erupted in celebration as chaos ensued and was soon brought to an end. Galaxy wins 2-1 over LAFC.
As much as the staff has changed over the years, the rivalry continues to deliver in the most ridiculous way. And the one constant that remains is that the Galaxy have the upper hand, with six wins against LAFC’s three in 14 all-time meetings.
How these meetings always seem to turn out is so weird it doesn’t make sense. LAFC usually plays the better games in terms of quality, odds and getting their ideas across to their rivals. That’s how they were under Bob Bradley, and that hasn’t changed with new head coach Steve Cherundolo. On Saturday they did so for most of the game but remained goalless for over 75 minutes before Cristian Arango equalized a rebound in the 79th minute.
Had Blessing’s goal not been called off, it would have felt like a small win for the black and gold. Cherundolo ran about 10 yards onto the field to celebrate at the moment and later received one of the game’s 10 total yellow cards. VAR quickly changed that energy, leaving LAFC with another sour taste – a feeling they’ve grown accustomed to in that clash.
“I don’t want to complain about that,” said LAFC midfielder Ilie Sanchez. “I think we did everything to at least deserve the draw, if not more. But unfortunately we have to go home without points this time.”
LAFC has yet to win a game at Dignity Health Sports Park. That is more meaningful than anything else. The Galaxy have seemingly had bragging rights since the rivalry began (see: Zlatan Ibrahimovic).
In the last proverbial battle between superstars, Chicharito won. He scored the opening goal in just nine minutes, marking his fifth goal of the season and level on points for most goals in the league so far.
Vela, who played well, was ruled out for offside. And at his best chance, at close range against goalkeeper Jonathan Bond, he slammed the post.
Also, while the Mexican duo dominated much of the action, don’t overlook the fact that Raheem Edwards pulls off the perfect revenge game. The Galaxy winger, who played for LAFC last season and was often criticized, is now thriving a few miles south under manager Greg Vanney. Not only was he instrumental in slowing Vela down and disrupting LAFC’s attack, he also contributed on offense with a few dribbles past former teammates. He was up for the challenge and then some.
“These games are so intense. I was dead for the last 15 minutes. Dead man,” said Edwards, the only player to appear for both teams at El Trafico. “Whether you wanted it or not, there will always be drama.”
The problem for LAFC is that drama always tends to skew in one direction. They have the biggest win of this rivalry, a 5-3 win in the 2019 MLS Cup playoffs. It’s a fun moment for fans to hold on to, but that’s about the end. Of LAFC’s three wins against the Galaxy, two were played without fans in attendance due to COVID-19, and one was played in Orlando during MLS is Back two summers ago.
“These are games we need to win, and not just because it’s LAFC,” Vanney said. “That’s part of it. Because they’re big, difficult, tough games. There’s a lot of attention, they feel bigger, they’re emotional and that’s what you have to do if you want to win trophies.”
One franchise has a lot of them and the other is still looking for them. It’s no secret that LAFC has disrupted the galaxy since entering the league, attracting fans, shifting energy and investing heavily in becoming a powerhouse. At least on some level they succeeded. It’s a must when these teams play.
It means so much more.
“Great atmosphere, just an amazing evolution of our sport,” said Cherundolo. “It took a lot of physical and mental strain on both teams but I think it’s great and I can’t wait for the next one.”
That comes July 8th at Banc of California Stadium. There’s a chance Vela, the series’ top scorer, might not even be with LAFC at this point as his contract expires at the end of June.
But one thing will stay the same until LAFC changes it.
“We fight for them [pride] of the city,” Chicharito said on Saturday. “And we did it.”
Undefeated Union: Philadelphia stands alone as the only undefeated team in MLS. They have won a club record five straight games, including four straight shutouts. They got some help keeping those streaks alive this weekend when Columbus goaltender Eloy Room gave them one of their worst ever own goals just two minutes into the game.
But that defense has only conceded twice this season and Andre Blake is in top form at the net. With Toronto and Montreal next on the schedule, there’s a real chance Philly can travel to Nashville for the May 1 opener at GEODIS Park, still undefeated.
Sonars Chasing the CCL Story: Perhaps this is actually the year an MLS team wins the CONCACAF Champions League.
It’s too fitting that Seattle is the squad approaching this feat. They’ve been the league standard for years, winning two MLS Cups, four US Open Cups and a Supporters’ Shield. They are no strangers to the moment and it showed in the first leg of their semi-final match with reigning MLS champions NYCFC. A fairly easy 3-1 win that could have been – and probably should have been – more. And this is not even in top form with his best goal threat Raul Ruidiaz.
That first-leg result should be enough to propel the Sounders into the CCL Finals, where they’ll look to outmaneuver MLS against Liga MX competition. In the second leg, all they have to do is take care of business on the street. Luckily for them and some for New York, the game will be played at a neutral venue at the Red Bull Arena, as Yankee Stadium is scheduled to be used by the Yankees on Wednesday.
Only bangers: People often exaggerate when using the word golazo, but it seems like we get one or more weekly in MLS. We’ve already seen some gems this year – overhead kicks, free kicks etc. This weekend we got a pair that not only added to the list but will certainly be in the running for the year-end awards.
Charlotte FC’s Jordy Alcivar defeated Brad Guzan with an Olimpico as the only goal in a win over Atlanta United:
FC Dallas midfielder Brandon Servania also scored his third career goal and it will be one to remember. They play their home games in Frisco, Texas, but it felt like he actually stood in Dallas as he blew up this long-range rocket:
What do you know about the boys from Texas? Speaking of Lone Star State, it was a clean win for the Texas teams this weekend. Most notably, FC Dallas scored two goals from Jesus Ferreira which is great news for USMNT fans. Another Ferreira, Houston Dynamo designated player Sebastian also scored a brace for his first two MLS goals in the 4-3 win over San Jose. And Austin FC ended it with a 1-0 shutout against Minnesota United at Q2 Stadium, compliments of a Maxi Urruti goal.
Last year, the three Texas teams finished last in the Western Conference. They currently occupy places 4-6 in the table with 11 points each. A long way to go, but this is an auspicious sign.
New revolution, and not a good one: The Revs’ Supporters’ Shield and record MLS season seems such a distant memory at this point. It was a disastrous start for New England, not only in the league but also considering the CONCACAF Champions League disaster that saw them squander a 3-0 lead in the first leg and lose to UNAM on penalties in the quarter-finals.
Whether it’s injuries, players not in top form, or weather conditions, everything has been bad for the Bruce Arena squad. Simple errors cost them late in a couple of games, leaving the Revs with just four points. Much of the staff from last year is still in place so it’s shocking to see them playing below standards, lacking creativity, spark and cohesion.
If the renamed Revs will look like this, bring back the crayon flag.