But ahead of Thursday’s Western Conference semifinal in the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs (10:30 pm ET | ESPN in US; TVAS, TSN4 in Canada), it’s also worth noting that the Galaxy have yet to beat LAFC at the venue for Thursday's highly anticipated showdown, Banc of California Stadium.
It’s the same venue where the two teams fought to a 3-3 tie on Aug. 28, their third draw in five meetings to date. It’s also the tail end of that contest that has the Black & Gold feeling primed for the single-elimination matchup.
“Maybe when you think back to the last time we played them, and Carlos [Vela] scores to make it 3-3 and then he has to come off, it almost means it holds the moment in time for us now to pick up from there,” Bob Bradley said after training Monday. “Now we’ve got to put it on our terms and finish it off.”
No less than eight minutes after the MLS Golden Boot winner drew the game level, Vela had to be taken off after straining his hamstring. Even as he threw the captain's armband down in frustration for being subbed off, his team came within a whisker of finding victory on several occasions.
There’s also a sense of inevitability that a version of El Trafico emerged this postseason.
“We wouldn’t want it any other way,” said LAFC left back Jordan Harvey, a Southern California native who recognizes how this fixture has captured national and global attention. “This is exactly the route we should take and we need to take, and we’re looking forward to it.”
The stakes couldn’t be higher for LAFC. A win wouldn’t just give them passage into the Western Conference Final and a shot at MLS Cup — their stated goal from the beginning of the season — it also allows them to go some way to overcoming the most painful moments from their club’s short history. Those include a first-round playoff defeat to Real Salt Lake last year; defeats in U.S. Open Cup knockout matches to Houston and Portland; and points dropped against their Southern California rivals in league play.
One win doesn’t erase all of that, but it does change the narrative.
“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 almost two years, yeah, it had to be the Galaxy,” Bradley said. "... Yeah, that’s spot on. It creates a big game and everybody here is really excited about it.”
“The Galaxy have a different way every time they play us, so all you have to do is look at what our games are like, the intensity they have,” said Bradley. “For whatever reason, they don’t always play the same way against other opponents, but we know that they bring their best against us and that’s a challenge that we’re excited for.”
With both teams having most of their rosters intact and a trip to the Western Conference Final beckoning, the stakes couldn’t be much higher.
LAFC is relishing the moment.
“I thought it would be the Galaxy, I think we all did,” said Bradley. “There’s a part to it that from the beginning, this is what’s meant to be."