The second edition of El Tráfico this season did not disappoint.
The rivalry between LA Galaxy Galaxy and LAFC went up another level Sunday night. It featured five goals in the first half, four coming in the first 16 minutes of the match.
Galaxy goals from Zlatan Ibrahimović and Cristian Pavón and LAFC goals from Latif Blessing and Carlos Vela highlighted a wild, crazy and entertaining contest that ended with the teams splitting points in a 3-3 draw.
The draw means the Galaxy continued their unbeaten run against LAFC.
But it might go down as a wasted opportunity for LAFC to finally breakthrough against the Galaxy. After being bombarded in the first 16 minutes of the match and going down two goals, LAFC was able to reorganize and control most of the match the rest of the way.
The second half saw LAFC dominate possession and create multiple chances. Vela equalized in the 53rd minute with a composed finish to tie the game at 3.
What was missing was the final ball or the final touch in front of goal to lift LAFC. Players were disappointed following the game knowing a chance to get three points had just eluded them.
“(The) first half, we were a little sloppy with some giveaways and not sharp enough,” LAFC defender Walker Zimmerman said in a postmatch interview. “… Second half I thought we did a much better job in terms of how we kept the ball, moved the ball, took control of the game, got back into it with some good goals and were solid defensively.”
Ibrahimović opened the scoring, slotting a left-footed shot past a diving Tyler Miller to give the Galaxy (13-11-3, 42 points) an early 1-0 lead in the second minute.
It was just the start.
LAFC (19-3-5, 62 points) responded 10 minutes later when Blessing equalized. Blessing got the final touch on a ball Diego Rossi headed toward goal.
The madness continued from there.
Three minutes after Blessing’s equalizer, Ibrahimović struck once again. The Galaxy’s star forward peeled off LAFC’s backline and slipped past Miller before scoring his second.
The flurry of goals kept coming.
A minute later, Pavón scored his first MLS goal, giving the Galaxy a 3-1 lead.
However, the two-goal lead was for naught.
“It was a good game, especially the first 45 minutes, we did good,” Ibrahimović said in a postmatch interview. “I think in the second (half) we became tired. We did simple mistakes, we were looking for the long ball. … We (could’ve won), we were leading 3-1 and we conceded the second goal at the end of the first half. Things happen, simple mistakes and you pay for it.”
Blessing added his second goal of the match in the first minute of first-half stoppage time. The ball fell to Blessing’s feet after a shot by Carlos Vela was deflected by Galaxy defenders, who shouted for an offside call, but Blessing was onside and doubled his goal-scoring tally.
The second half began a little less frantic, but the goals kept coming and Vela put his imprint on the game with his goal in the 53rd minute.
He took one touch to control the ball, another to set up his shot and then slotted the ball past David Bingham.
He was substituted a few minutes later after coming up lame with a right hamstring injury.
“This was a game that we wanted to win,” Zimmerman said. “We’re at home in front of our supporters playing our rival and we wanted to get that win for them, but ultimately we move forward. We continue pushing, we have high hopes for this team and we’re going to keep pushing forward.”
The tired legs of the LA Galaxy showed throughout the second half. Ibrahimović, who was heavily involved in the first half, did not get many looks at goal in the final 45. He did have a chance to win the game in the third minute of stoppage time but pulled his shot to the right of the near post.
Sunday’s contest was the second time this season the teams played an entertaining match against each other. Ibrahimović scored a hat trick in a 3-2 Galaxy win July 19.
The rivals could potentially meet for a third time this season during the MLS playoffs.