Major League Soccer

LAFC get tough playoff test vs. rival Galaxy

mls2LAFC (21-4-9) VS. GALAXY (16-15-3)
10:30 p.m. ET; ESPN, TVAS, TSN4, ESPN-D

After amassing an MLS-record 72 points in just their second year of existence, there seems to be no reward for Los Angeles FC, who opens their playoff run Thursday against the team that has given them the most trouble.

The Los Angeles Galaxy will make the 13-mile drive north Thursday to face LAFC in the rivalry dubbed “El Trafico.” The Western Conference semifinal game comes four days after the Galaxy’s convincing 2-1 playoff victory at Minnesota United FC.

LAFC (21-4-9) spent the recent international break and their first-round playoff bye working on finding the form that served them so well this season. Actually, it served them well against everybody except the Galaxy (16-15-3, 51 points), who finished in fifth place.

Led by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has made more MLS highlights against LAFC than any other team, the Galaxy earned a 3-2 home victory on July 19 and then forged a 3-3 tie on the road Aug. 25. LAFC have never defeated the Galaxy.

Yet LAFC insist they wouldn’t want things any other way for a playoff opener.

“When we talk about what we wanted to be from the start — what kind of team, our football, being successful, everything that’s happened in two years — yeah, it had to be the Galaxy,” said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley, who was named MLS Coach of the Year this week. “To get where we want to be now, winning big games on big stages and doing it with the kind of football we’ve been able to do a lot of the course of the last two years, that’s spot on. I think it creates a big game and everybody here is excited.”

Big game indeed. LAFC have Golden Boot winner Carlos Vela leading the way after a 34-goal season and a sure anointing as the MLS MVP. The Galaxy have Ibrahimovic, who scored 30 times, second most in the league, and continue to insist that he is the best player MLS has ever seen.

“We have to play against everybody if we want to win it,” Ibrahimovic said about facing LAFC. “Whoever comes in the way, we have to play against them. I think everybody’s excited for this game. I think everybody wanted this game.”

Ibrahimovic has eight goals against LAFC as the Galaxy have gone 2-0-3 in those contests. He emphatically announced himself to the league in 2018 against LAFC, scoring his first MLS goal on a long-range blast that started the Galaxy toward a 4-3 comeback victory. He also delivered all three goals in the July victory.

Vela has done just fine in the rivalry himself, scoring seven times. He scored a goal in all five games played between the teams and had three in the two matchups this season.

–Field Level Media

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