Galaxy’s new Zlatan helps keep LAFC at bay


CARSON, California – Live long enough to see yourself become a villain.

The Los Angeles Galaxy-LAFC rivalry certainly didn’t need a boost, but Wednesday’s US Open Cup version of El Tráfico, which the Galaxy won 3-1, might have taken it to another level. It was the second time ever that the sides had met in a knockout game and this time it was the older LA side who prevailed in a 3-1 win and defeated the black and golds at Dignity Health Sports Park remained undefeated.

But for the first time, bad blood actually boiled over after the game, when players and coaches had to be separated in a sea of ​​jostling and jostling. LAFC players Mamadou Fall and Brian Rodriguez were visibly among the most upset and had to be held back on several occasions. The loss itself could have been enough to trigger those emotions, but this was different.

A day before the game, Galaxy midfielder Raheem Edwards made some comments that started the fire. “I want to beat LAFC so badly,” he said. “That [3252, LAFC Supporters’ Group] …I want to be honest, I just want to piss her off.”

Edwards only played for LAFC last season and is the only player to appear for both sides in the rivalry. However, he knew exactly what he was doing. His malicious behavior was premeditated, and while LAFC viewed it as a shadow, the galaxy took it in stride. It motivated a team that had had back-to-back home defeats in which they were outplayed 6-1.

“I have to excite the boys and I also want the drama,” he said. “I think MLS is a little too soft on the players who I think are too conservative and don’t want to look like the bad guy. I’m just trying to ignite the fire between both sides.”

For the first time in a while everything went to Galaxy, not just the result. Kévin Cabral, Javier “Chicharito” Hernández and Dejan Joveljić scored to make it 3-0 for Galaxy before LAFC clinched late consolation. They were just the better team.

Raheem Edwards rages like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the Galaxy used it to remain unbeaten at home to rivals LAFC. (Photo by Dave Bernal/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

They showed more passion, outperformed their opponent and were better organized. LAFC star Carlos Vela was substituted in the 20th minute after he felt something in his quad. At the other end, his opponent Hernández danced and celebrated his goal in the 57th minute, just six minutes after Cabral’s opener.

“Today I think [Galaxy] fought more, played a better game and deserved to win,” said Vela. “We are disappointed as a team with the way we played and lost.”

The post-game drama was a direct expression of frustration at the result, but you can attribute some of that to Edwards as well.

LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo was upset by what happened after the final whistle. The galaxy chalked it up to the emotions. And why not? LAFC was haunted by Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the early days of the rivalry and it is fitting that Edwards summoned Ibra-esque bravery to gain an advantage. Psychological warfare at its finest.

Since Ibrahimovic’s famous debut in 2018, LAFC has been trying to win a game at Carson and it hasn’t happened yet. Unless they meet there in this year’s MLS Cup playoffs, this drought will continue into 2023.

This loss can also hurt as the chance of winning a trophy has passed again. The way to go in the US Open Cup, played between the four leagues sanctioned by the US Soccer Association, is USL club Sacramento Republic in the quarterfinals and then either another USL team or Sporting Kansas City, who are in a terrible streak this season shape is. in the semifinals.

That opportunity now belongs to Galaxy, a team with a hefty trophy cabinet, and not to LAFC, the squad eager to fill one.

“To win here in the Open Cup against our rivals is perfect,” said Edwards. “It was definitely the hottest game I’ve played so far. I think the rivalry needs that. We need a bit of guts, fight and drama so I thought that was perfect.”

Edwards endured his fair share of fan criticism while playing for LAFC. It became clear he wasn’t going to be a hero for LAFC, so he switched sides and became the villain instead.

It suits him a lot better anyway.

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