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The Galaxy and LAFC Battle for Los Angeles in Tonight’s MLS Playoff Match, There Can Be Only One

[dropcap size=big]L[/dropcap]os Angeles Galaxy midfielder Jonathan Dos Santos put the gears of destiny into motion this past Sunday night when he scored a banger from long distance and into the corner pocket of Minnesota United FC’s net. His goal not only sealed the 2 – 1 victory that sent the Galaxy two games closer to the Major League Soccer final, but it also, and most importantly, set up the Galaxy’s first playoff match against crosstown rival: Los Angeles Football Club.

MLS’s dueling L.A. franchises will now meet face-to-face, boot-to-boot at LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium in Exposition Park for the league’s Western Conference semi-final. The winner will hold bragging rights for the region as the regional representative in the proceeding conference final and possibly in the league final between the Western Conference and Eastern Conference champions.

 

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In just its second year, the rivalry between LAG and LAFC, known as El Tráfico, has already grown to be one of the most hyped rivalries in MLS. The rivalry, which L.A. Taco covered at length last year, pits the bragging rights over “the real L.A.” on the line between the veteran franchise of LAG, one of the league’s founding franchises, with the upstart LAFC who are part of the new wave of MLS teams of the past decade.

LAFC has made its mark in MLS despite its sophomore status. The team won the 2019 Supporter’s Shield trophy, awarded to the 1st-place team in the league in both conferences with the most points on aggregate, thanks to a record-breaking 72 points in 34 games. Team captain Carlos Vela played a large role in winning that trophy as he scored a league-record 34 goals of the team’s combined 85 goals, also a league-record. Vela’s feat earned him the Golden Boot award. Meanwhile, LAFC coach Bob Bradley was named as the MLS Coach of The Year.

There is, however, a set of numbers that stand in LAFC’s path: 6’4.” That’s how tall Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Galaxy’s Swedish lion, stands, casting a lengthy shadow over his rivals. The European legend, famous for scoring absolute screamers, bangers, and body-bending rockets, landed in L.A. in March last year backed by a brand and personality appropriate announcement, and a mouth that would even make Muhammad Ali say,“Maybe you should tone it down.”

Days after stepping off the plane, Zlatan stepped onto the field at Dignity Health Sports Park on March 31st for the first time in a Galaxy kit and literally ripped LAFC’s victory from their hands that reset the bar insanely high for MLS rivalries. This past summer, Zlatan singlehandedly plowed through LAFC’s defense once again to hand them another win at home.

These two victories give the Galaxy the edge over their rivals as LAFC has yet to win a match against them. Of the five rivalry games between the two, the other three ended in draws.

But there’s a catch: LAFC’s 1st-place position over the 5th-place Galaxy gives them homecourt advantage for the semi-final. The Galaxy’s two victories occurred in their home stadium. Though LAFC have yet to beat LAG, they also haven’t lost to them at the Banc.

So, what will it be tonight: Will the Galaxy finally record its first victory in LAFC’s neighborhood on their quest to a historic 6th MLS title? Or will LAFC continue to break league records and finally find that as-of-yet elusive victory against the Galaxy?

LAFC host LA Galaxy at the Banc of California stadium tonight at 7:30 PM. The winner will face the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference final on October 29th. The winner of that match will face the winner of the Eastern Conference final, scheduled for October 30th, in the MLS final on November 10th.

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