Offside with Taylor Twellman

How Zlatan Ibrahimovic made El Tráfico an instant classic


It's still in its relative infancy, but the El Tráfico rivalry between the LA Galaxy and LAFC has already delivered many classic MLS moments.

It can be traced back to the very first edition of the matchup between the sides on March 31, 2018, which also happened to mark the Galaxy debut of legendary Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. On the latest episode of Offside with Taylor Twellman, former LAFC midfielder Benny Feilhaber and former LA Galaxy and current Houston Dynamo FC defender Daniel Steres joined the show and recalled their memories of that inaugural match ahead of this Thursday's July 4 El Tráfico at the Rose Bowl (10:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).

Of course, that first contest was most remembered for Zlatan's iconic long-range golazo shortly after his entrance as a second-half substitute – widely considered among the very best goals in MLS history.

"This dude's 45 yards away from goal and the minute that you see him winding up for it," Feilhaber recalled. "You're thinking, where's our goalie? Where's Tyler Miller? And Tyler Miller is somewhere outside of his box. And you're thinking, man, I mean, what are the odds this guy is going to hit this clean? It's almost, for anyone else, it's like 1%. For him, it's like 99%. As soon as he hit it, everybody, at least on the field, knows that's a goal. There's no doubt about it."

The strike set off a wild scene at Dignity Health Sports Park, as Ibrahimovic tore his jersey off before getting mobbed by his new teammates, who he'd just met days earlier.

Steres said he counts the header he delivered into Zlatan's path to set up the iconic strike among the most memorable moments of his career.

"It's the greatest assist in MLS history, right?" Steres said. "I was all over the place. I was down, lowest moment. This is going to be a terrible victory. Thirty minutes left in this game, and I have to somehow get through this to just pure joy, ecstatic.

"We all went screaming, running down, like we hardly know the guy, and we're all jumping all over him. Excited that he just scored that goal for us, and yeah, it was a just full swing of emotions."

The match set the tone for the energy and intensity that would come to define the rivalry in the years that followed.

"Every game that there's ever been between Galaxy and LAFC, it is irrelevant where anybody is on the table, in the standings, or form," said Feilhaber. "All you know is you're gonna get some goals right and you're gonna get some excitement."