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Slipping through their fingers: LA Galaxy 4, LAFC 3

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LAFC should have won it, but fell apart in the final 30 minutes.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Los Angeles Galaxy Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Zlatan Ibrahimovic announced his arrival in style, overshadowing Carlos Vela’s brace in his MLS debut as LAFC raced out to a 3-0 lead, but lost to the LA Galaxy 4-3 following Ibrahimovic’s unbelievable strike and then another goal in the first edition of El Trafico on Saturday at StubHub Center.

The collapse by LAFC was truly epic, as was Ibrahimovic’s impact after entering the game in the 71st minute.

It appeared the Galaxy had a gameplan to sit deep and defend compact, ceding the ball to LAFC and requiring them to make plays through traffic, and that’s how the game started. Remarkably, that lasted for all of about three minutes, before the game opened up and LAFC had acres of space to operate in in the Galaxy half.

The game really became a party five minutes in, as Steven Beitashour sent a pass to Vela just outside the box and the Mexican curled a ball into the upper 90 far post corner to beat David Bingham and put LAFC ahead. It was an incredible goal for the Designated Player.

From there, LAFC remained firmly in control, and Vela had his second goal of the game in the 26th minute, as a scramble in the box led to Bingham coming out and trying to snuff out the chance from Vela, who calmly dribbled around him. As Galaxy defenders ran back to try and block the inevitable shot on the goal line, Vela calmly plunked the shot off the crossbar, and it went over the line and made it 2-0. It was a goal with echoes of Giovani dos Santos’ famous goal at the Rose Bowl in the 2011 Gold Cup final for Mexico.

Coming out of the break, Tyler Miller came up with a couple stops early in the half to set the tone for LAFC, before the lead was extended in the 48th minute, with Marcos Urena’s low cross from the endline being bundled in by Galaxy defender Daniel Steres.

But the Galaxy scored one in the one they’re supposed to be shooting towards just after the hour mark, as Sebastian Lletget blasted past Miller to make it 3-1 and make sure LAFC were working hard to maintain their lead. Then Zlatan Ibrahimovic came off the bench, and helped set up the second goal for the hosts, which was headed in by Chris Pontius to make it 3-2 with about 15 minutes to go. Just after that, Ibrahimovic just let rip from about 40 yards, beating Miller to make it 3-3 in probably the most dramatic way possible.

Ureña could have won the game in the 86th minute, but his shot on a breakaway clanged off the near post and that was that. Eduard Atuesta made his MLS debut and almost scored, too, but dragged his shot just wide.

But then Ibrahimovic scored his second of the game on a header, where he looked to be slightly offside, but no Video Review to be found as the home cooking took over and the Galaxy won in remarkable fashion.

Make no mistake, LAFC really blew it. They went from being firmly in control, silencing the Galaxy crowd completely, to being sloppy enough in defense to give the Galaxy a goal, and then another, and then another, and then another. This is just the third game, and they were going to lose at some point, but this is a gut punch, no doubt about it. Also, coming against the local rival means Galaxy folks aren’t going to let LAFC partisans forget it, either.

LAFC are back at it on the road in a week’s time, as they’ll take on their biggest test yet in Atlanta United FC at their giant stadium in Atlanta. Will the newest kids on the block beat out last year’s darlings? It’s setting up to be a fantastic match.

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