Undefeated LAFC claim first El Trafico road win, LA Galaxy rue "colossal mistakes" 


El Trafico – the derby that always delivers.

The 18th edition of what is arguably the best rivalry in Major League Soccer produced brilliant goals, another starring effort from the derby’s goal king and something that’s never been done before as LAFC celebrated a first Trafico road win, beating the winless LA Galaxy, 3-2, Sunday afternoon.

“It feels great. I feel like we showed many times that we’re better than them, but for some reason anytime we play here it’s a crazy start,” Carlos Vela said. “After this one, I hope we win more often here and show every time that we play LA Galaxy that we’re the team of this city.”

Vela played a leading role in LAFC’s historic win, opening the scoring with a 22nd-minute golazo and adding a second from the penalty spot. That brings his total to 12 goals, more than anyone else in El Trafico history.

“Carlos has a very special left leg and his football IQ is also off the charts,” LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo said. “Carlos has done that time and time again and it’s great to see that, it’s great to see him finishing in the manner that he finishes his chances. He doesn’t get many many chances, but he’s there when we need him and that’s why he is at LAFC and nobody else.”

LAFC: Short rest, no problem

The win for LAFC comes just days after the club booked a berth into the Concacaf Champions League semifinals where they’ll play the Philadelphia Union in a rematch of last year’s legendary MLS Cup – won by LAFC on penalty kicks.

It’s been a busy stretch of games for LAFC, but they come out of it as the only unbeaten team in Major League Soccer after Matchday 8 (5W-0L-2D record).

“It’s very difficult to win a game in this league, especially on the road. This was also our fifth game in two weeks and I think we saw a little bit of that tonight,” Cherundolo said. “To win here and to continue in the Champions League in the fashion we did, and seeing where we are on the table, makes it much easier to forgive the guys for a rather average to below average performance.

“For them to find a way to win after what they’ve been through over the past couple of weeks is absolutely excellent and speaks about their mentality and where we are as a group.”

LA Galaxy: Winless but encouraged

The Galaxy are trending in the other direction, joining Sporting Kansas City as the only two teams in the league that are winless in 2023 (0W-4L-3D record). Still, Galaxy coach Greg Vanney saw positives in the way his team played. Tyler Boyd scored a stunning goal from distance, the longest for the Galaxy in MLS since Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s 40-yard strike on his LA debut in 2018, per Opta.

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez started his first match of the season in his return from injury and played the entire 90 minutes, providing an emotional spark to a team that desperately needed one. And Riqui Puig was sensational with Vanney saying the Barcelona product played his “best game of the season so far."

But the Galaxy were done in by self-inflicted wounds, gift-wrapping LAFC’s goals.

“For a lot of the day, I was pleased with our performance, I was pleased with our effort, our energy,” Vanney said. “We punished ourselves today. Today we killed ourselves and that's unfortunate against a good team that has momentum in their favor.”

Even after a costly turnover by Gaston Brugman in midfield that led to Vela’s first goal, the Galaxy went into the half tied thanks to Boyd’s first MLS goal.

But “two colossal mistakes” two minutes apart led to Vela’s second and a headed Ryan Hollingshead goal to give the visitors a 3-1 lead with 20 minutes to go.

“I'm proud of the guys' effort. This is an interesting week for everybody. But the effort for the guys was fantastic. And I thought at times our performance was fantastic,” Vanney said. “I've never been more sure about this group's ability to do something special this season than today. We’ve got to cut out the part where we hurt ourselves to make the other team beat us.”

Chicharito called it the Galaxy’s best performance of the season and, while he said he hates to lose, will take a defeat in the manner they did over the 3-0 defeat to Houston Dynamo FC in Matchday 7.

“Today I think regardless of the result, it was the best performance in my opinion that we did because honestly if LAFC is considered the best team of the league, we outplayed them,” he said. “The problem is we did [a] very naive mistake, all of us.”

LAFC will look to continue their hot start when they head to Nashville SC Saturday (8:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass), while the Galaxy will host Austin FC Saturday (10:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).