LOS ANGELES -- The LA Galaxy won another season series with LAFC and pushed their unbeaten streak against their crosstown rivals to five games — the entirety of the El Trafico derby — with Sunday night's 3-3 draw at Banc of California Stadium.
That certainly resonates with their fanbase in the city's — and perhaps Major League Soccer's — most explosive rivalry, and both teams acknowledge that it's meaningful. How meaningful is open to debate.
“Nothing special,” Galaxy head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto said when asked what the unbeaten run says. “It's good for us, but it's just a stat. No more [important] for coaches. Maybe for the people, for the fans, but not for me.”
LA have bigger matters at hand, like finding their way into the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs after missing out the past two years. The draw left the Galaxy fourth in the West, one point out of second and just two clear of seventh with seven games left on their schedule. The Portland Timbers, sitting just below the playoff line in eighth place, are just five points back with a game in hand.
“Doesn't mean nothing [that we've not lost to LAFC],” Zlatan Ibrahimovic said after scoring twice as LA raced to a 3-1 edge in the first 16 minutes. “We're still in the regular season, and I think they're in the playoffs, and we are not yet, and we have to play for it. One point today is one point, just like any other team. ... I mean, we should focus on all the teams we play against.”
The Galaxy have been up and down all season after the disappointing campaigns following Bruce Arena's departure at the end of the 2016 season, but they've got the formula for taming LAFC, which are 35-10-10 against the rest of MLS since debuting last year and 0-2-3 against their South Bay neighbors.
“I think definitely, they have this blockage, that they can't get the job done, and, you know, that's fine ...,” midfielder Sebastian Lletget told MLSsoccer.com. “I'm sure next time it'll keep building, keep accumulating in their head, as it would totally get in my head if it were the other way around.
“But we have the opposite sort of approach. We're like, they can't beat us, and we know we can beat them.”
Even if it “doesn't mean nothing,” Ibrahimovic loves playing against LAFC. And why not? He's got eight goals in the five meetings, five in this year's home-and-home battles.
“They don't beat us, what can I say?” he said. “It's five games, and I enjoy when I play them. I enjoy to play in this stadium. I think when we play home, it's more global, the game: I think the stadium is too small for me here, [but] I make the stadium bounce anyway. It looks double-big when I play here.”
3,252 Zlatan fans. pic.twitter.com/GVqf5FRiVF— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) August 26, 2019
LAFC head coach Bob Bradley acknowledges there's something to the Galaxy's ownership of El Trafico, noting that his team's failure to beat its archrival was “hanging over our heads.”
“When you don't do it, there's a part to it that still stings,” he said, “and it will continue to hang over our heads.”
At least until next time. And should next time arrive during the playoffs, all the better.
“I think everyone wants to see us play each other in the playoffs,” Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham said. “If we play LAFC in the playoffs, that's the league final right there.”
It would be a fantastic matchup, all seem to agree, including Bradley, who mentioned it in his postgame news conference. Lletget sure likes the idea.
“In a Western Conference final, to beat them in that game?” he said. “That sort of game would be the ultimate. There's always that chance, and in a game like that, you never know. We'll see. We'll take it step by step.”
What does Ibrahimovic think? Does he want LAFC in the playoffs?
“Absolutely,” he said. “And here, also. I want to play it here.”