Fireworks erupted Saturday night in Orlando as Los Angeles Football Club defeated crosstown rival Los Angeles Galaxy six goals to two in the group stage of the MLS is Back Tournament.
Saturday’s match was the seventh meeting between the two clubs, with LAFC’s victory tying the Galaxy at two wins apiece. The fixture between these two clubs known as El Tráfico has become a highly anticipated marquee matchup in recent years.
The Galaxy entered the game with a great disadvantage, as star forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernández was ruled out due to a calf strain. LAFC surprised fans as well, as goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer was benched in favor of backup Pablo Sisniega. Vermeer gave up three goals in the previous match against Houston.
Despite not having to worry about Hernández, things started out horrendously for the Black and Gold, as defense continued to be a weak point for this team. The Galaxy scored first in the fifth minute off an own goal from LAFC midfielder Latif Blessing.
LAFC would respond, however, as forward Diego Rossi was awarded a penalty kick and scored in the 13th minute. Rossi’s 13th-minute goal would be the first in a four-goal outing, netting him Man of the Match honors.
“The feelings are really good,” said Rossi in a post-game interview. “Obviously I’m happy with my goals, but I’m even happier with the result … I’m happy with the whole situation, and we have to continue like this.”
In the 30th minute, when the score was tied 1-1, the Galaxy were awarded their second and final penalty. Forward Cristian Pavon took the opportunity to score, giving the Galaxy a 2-1 lead.
LAFC’s struggles from its previous game against Houston carried over to the first half against the Galaxy. Despite controlling 58% of the possession, LAFC struggled to get past the Galaxy’s back line and ultimately gave the Galaxy chances to score.
Saturday’s affair was also a physical one, as a total of seven yellow cards were pulled. The Galaxy was cited with four yellows, and LAFC was given three. The Galaxy posted a stunning total of 15 fouls on the night.
“First half was very hard. Galaxy clogged the middle. Very tight. Very intense. We did a poor job finding space,” said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley after the game. “Our second goal was the start of better football … It took us a long time to find our ways … Still we fought through it and then created good chances and scored some great goals.”
Things finally turned around for the Black and Gold in the second half, as Rossi tied the game at two goals apiece in the 75th minute with his second goal.
The tide really turned in LAFC’s favor in the 56th minute, as recently signed forward Bradley Wright-Phillips scored the Black and Gold’s third goal of the night, giving LAFC the lead 3-2.
Tired legs took a hold on the Galaxy, as Rossi scored the insurance goal in the 75th minute, giving him a hat trick on the night. LAFC defender Mohamed El Munir scored a lightning strike outside the penalty in minute 80, and Diego Rossi wrapped up the night with a final score in stoppage time.
Saturday night’s victory puts the Black and Gold in second place in Group F behind the first-place Portland Timbers. With one more group match to go, LAFC’s chances of advancing to the round of 16 are high. At four points, LAFC can still overtake Portland to win the group. Portland currently stands at six points.
LAFC’s next game is against the Timbers on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. This is the final game for LAFC in group play, and the winner of this game will take Group F. The game will be broadcasted nationally on ESPN 2.