ST. PAUL, Minn. – After thwarting Minnesota United’s plans of making a run in their first-ever MLS postseason appearance, the LA Galaxy aim to inflict similar misery on their closest rivals as they move on to the Western Conference Semifinals of the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs.
On Thursday the Galaxy will travel exactly 12 miles north up the 110 freeway to visit their crosstown enemies LAFC (10:30 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes in US; TSN4, TVAS in Canada) for the first playoff edition of “El Trafico.”
It will feature the league’s two leading scorers in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Carlos Vela, and with the teams having scored a combined 11 goals over their two regular-season meetings, more fireworks can be expected. The two teams have met five times since LAFC’s debut last year, with the Galaxy enjoying the advantage thus far with a 2-0-3 record.
The Galaxy delivered a 3-2 comeback win at home in July, paced by an Ibrahimovic hat trick, and then the teams drew in an exhilarating 3-3 stalemate at Banc of California Stadium in late August, a match in which LAFC stormed back from a 3-1 first-half deficit.
SeatGeek has great deals for future MLS matchesGET TICKETS Official Ticketing Partner of Major League Soccer
Zlatan has seized the spotlight again and again in this rivalry, scoring eight times against LAFC and assisting on another while publicly declaring his superiority to Vela, but he wasn’t quite ready to talk trash yet on Sunday night.
“I don’t know, we’ll see,” Ibrahimovic said after Sunday's 2-1 win at Allianz Field when asked who is the bigger player, him or Vela, ahead of El Trafico. And according to him, “it doesn’t matter” that LAFC have never beaten the Galaxy before.
LA midfielder Sebastian Lletget was more eager to express his excitement for the rematch against LAFC, noting that their intentions are the same as they were when they came to Minnesota.
“This it is, man,” Lletget said. “I’m really excited and can’t wait until Thursday. I think it’ll be a special day; the history speaks for itself.”
Even though his performance against the Loons wasn’t a memorable one, Ibrahimovic thought the team’s second-half performance after a shaky start was the reason they were able to oust MNUFC at home.
“I think this game, it was the most difficult game we’ve played this season,” he said. “It was not an easy field to play on. They were good, they were confident – you could see that in their game.”
The Galaxy offense struggled against a talented Minnesota defense but capitalized on their opportunities, failing to put a single shot on target before Lletget netted the game’s first goal in the 71st minute. Jonathan dos Santos doubled the lead with a sublime strike four minutes later. The Loons scored a late goal in the 87th minute in an attempted comeback, but it was far too little, too late.
“It was a very difficult match; they were very strong on their field. It wasn’t easy but I’m very happy with the win,” dos Santos said. “We’re in the playoffs and it’s not easy to win as the visitor.”
The only road victors of Round One, the Galaxy now aim to maintain momentum against Bob Bradley’s LAFC side, who haven’t played a competitive match since Decision Day presented by AT&T on Oct. 6.
“We have to keep going, we have to bring this confidence with us,” Ibrahimovic said. “This is win or lose. We cannot get a second chance or anything. There’s one more game after that game.”