El Trafico: Most memorable moments before LA Galaxy-LAFC rivalry returns on FOX

It is one of Major League Soccer's best rivalries, and a new chapter of El Trafico is set for Saturday (7:30 pm ET | FOX, FOX Deportes) at Dignity Health Sports Park when the LA Galaxy host LAFC.

It is expected to provide the long-awaited first meeting in MLS between Mexican mega-stars Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Carlos Vela, and both teams are enjoying fine form as two of the top three teams in the Western Conference standings. It is also the first coaching showdown between LA's Greg Vanney and LAFC's Steve Cherundolo.

While those are the big storylines for chapter No. 14 of the Southern California derby, here are seven of the most memorable moments to date.

Zlatan arrives

The first-ever meeting early in the 2018 season was truly the stuff of legends.

Vela struck for a brace inside the opening half-hour and then-expansion LAFC had a 3-0 lead after a Daniel Steres own goal early in the second half. The Galaxy deficit was 3-1 when Zlatan Ibrahimovic, less than 48 hours after landing at LAX, put his memorable stamp on the rivalry.

Moments after coming off the substitute’s bench, Ibrahimovic scored one of the greatest goals in MLS history – a stunning long-distance, volleyed equalizer – before his stoppage-time header secured a 4-3 win for the Galaxy.

Trick and treat for Ibrahimovic, Galaxy

The first meeting of the 2019 season started with both Ibrahimovic and Vela still center stage. And it played out similar to the first-ever encounter a year earlier. 

Vela scored twice, including the early opener, but Ibrahimovic had the last laugh with the first Trafico hat trick to lead the Galaxy to a 3-2 win.

Trafico - Audi MLS Cup Playoffs style

There's nothing like a playoff game to spice up a rivalry that was plenty spicy already.

Banc of California Stadium was the scene for the first-ever postseason encounter on Oct. 24, 2019. And what a time for LAFC to turn the tables on the Galaxy and pick up their first Trafico win in a match that was tied for the highest-scoring Audi MLS Cup Playoffs match ever.

In the Ibrahimovic-Vela showdown, it was Vela who got the last laugh. He scored another first-half brace and Ibrahimovic leveled early in the second half. Adama Diomande scored twice in the second half as LAFC celebrated a 5-3 win.

MLS is Back ... so is Diego Rossi

The only El Trafico match to be played outside of California was on July 18, 2020 at Florida's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex as part of the MLS is Back Tournament, with the league resuming play after a COVID-19 global pandemic pause.

Pending the birth of his child, Vela opted out of the tournament and Ibrahimovic had moved onto Italy's AC Milan. That opened the door for Diego Rossi to wear the superhero cape. The Uruguayan forward scored four goals as LAFC struck for five unanswered goals in a 6-2 triumph in the most lopsided Trafico showdown to date.

Rodriguez scores another Trafico golazo

One of the reasons El Trafico is a must-watch is because of the goals – and there have been 58 of them in 13 all-time meetings. And there’s been golazos as well.

While Zlatan’s first MLS goal will go down as probably the best-ever in this rivalry, Brian Rodriguez made his case for one of the most memorable with a stunning mazy run through the Galaxy backline, the highlight of a 3-3 draw last August.

The first goal

Everyone remembers Ibrahimovic’s first MLS goal, but it wasn't the first El Trafico goal. That honor went to Vela, who scored his first of eight goals in just seven matches.

Vela received the ball from Steven Beitashour and put a trademark curling, left-footed effort past Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham just five minutes after kickoff.

“Get lost"

Emotions run high during El Trafico, and that isn’t exclusively for the players on the field.

During a postgame flash interview with ESPN's Sebastian Salazar after LAFC’s 5-3 playoff win, then-LAFC head coach Bob Bradley walked off after challenging the reporter's question about Vela and his performances in big games.