LOS ANGELES — El Trafico delivered another classic Sunday night, an intense battle — staged before an electric crowd at Banc of California Stadium — that finished on even terms, a result that satisfied neither side.
The LA Galaxy remain unbeaten in five meetings with their crosstown rival, but they weren't happy to let a two-goal advantage slip away in a 3-3 draw, and LAFC wasn't thrilled that its dominance after the break wasn't enough to snag all three points.
The Galaxy tallied three times in the first 16 minutes to grab a 3-1 lead — twice through Zlatan Ibrahimovic, naturally, plus Cristian Pavon's first MLS goal — but conceded in first-half stoppage and struggled to stay with the runaway Supporters' Shield leaders in the second half and fought valiantly for a draw after Carlos Vela's 27th goal of the year evened things in the 53rd minute.
LAFC, which got two first-half goals from Latif Blessing, failed to take all the points at home for just the second time in a league game all season.
“I know we walk away here with a point, and not many teams have done that, but I think we're still a little upset we let it slip away,” Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget told MLSsoccer.com when it was over. “I'd have loved to see us score one more goal. I think that would have been game over, for sure.
“But then again, when you go two goals up, especially in this place, it's not game over. It's far from being over.”
Ibrahimovic, who has eight goals against LAFC and 22 this season, said fatigue and mistakes took a toll as LA struggled to keep pace in the second half.
“The first half was good, we did very good,” he said. “We had a couple chances more to score, and then we concede the second goal that was too cheap, and we do simple mistakes. Second half, we were doing opposite of what we should have done. You get tired, you need to make it easy for yourself, you need to play each, but we made it difficult. We lost too many balls and we got even more tired and we were under pressure [the rest of the way]. They scored the third goal, and then ... we were just defending.”
Blessing's goal at the end of the first half, a golden chance after a Vela shot was blocked, was a game-changer.
“We were still winning, we were still playing good,” said Ibrahimovic, who has scored twice in each of LA's last three MLS outings. “Then you go in the second half, you never know if you can keep up the pace and intensity, which is difficult, and they took over more and more, and we were under pressure. ...
“Your winning, 3-1, I think we should hold the results. When we were doing mistakes, we kill ourselves. ... You cannot do it for a game like this, which is more intense -- more higher level, let's say -- and the one that does the most mistakes is the one that will pay most.”
LAFC was pleased, of course, to rally for the draw, but unhappy with the result. Head coach Bob Bradley had conflicting feelings.
“Two parts to this thing,” he said. “Obviously, there's just what's hanging over our heads, which is beating the Galaxy. When you don't do it, there's a part to it that still stings, and it will continue to hang over our heads. But what goes with that is the part of continuing to grow as a team, and I still think that the package of things it takes to be a great team, most are going in the right direction.
“The last part is still this understanding of, in the biggest games, with the emotion and everything, how to still make sure that you try to win, but you don’t do it in a crazy way. I thought we started the game, everyone wants to win so bad, but we were forcing passes, jamming plays, anxious to try and recover the ball when it was too far away. It was just a feeling of 'here we go, and we want to beat them,' and yet doing it in a way that’s still not solid enough, not experienced enough. So that’s one of our steps still.”