It took six tries, but Los Angeles Football Club got their first win over the LA Galaxy, in the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs, no less, as they defeated their crosstown rivals 5-3 in the Western Conference semifinal on Thursday at Banc of California Stadium.
The win, featuring two braces on LAFC’s side and a typically spirited performance from the Galaxy, is LAFC’s first-ever playoff win as well, as they look to add MLS Cup to their Supporters’ Shield triumph this season.
LAFC’s lineup missed two key starters who’ve been hobbled, as Tristan Blackmon started at center back for Walker Zimmerman, who began on the bench and entered in the second half, and Mark-Anthony Kaye wasn’t even in the 18, Lee Nguyen taking his place.
The teams swapped shots off the post in the opening 15 minutes, with the second, LAFC’s, opening the door to the opening goal in a minute later. Latif Blessing stole the ball in the Galaxy half, pushed it upfield to Lee Nguyen, whose touch to Diego Rossi came off. Rossi passed the ball to Carlos Vela, making a run in the channel, and his clever cutback was capped off with a rare right-footed finish. It was a bit awkward but it went in, and that’s all that matters.
LAFC doubled their lead in the 40th minute, with Brian Rodriguez getting his first assist as he did all the work, playing a give and go and dribbling upfield, before hitting a simple square pass that Vela finished for his second of the game.
The goal was controversial because the replay seemed to show that Rodriguez was offside on his final pass received before the goal, but a quick review after the goal led to no full VAR review, and Kevin Stott allowed the goal.
But just a minute later the Galaxy got in the game, as Cristian Pavon snuck behind everyone at the far post, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic fed him a good diagonal pass that Pavon finished well to make it 2-1.
LAFC had a couple chances to start the second half, but they handed the equalizer to the Galaxy, in the 55th minute. Zlatan Ibrahimovic had a rather routine shot, but it squirted right through Tyler Miller’s legs and into the net. It was an enormous gaffe by the goalkeeper, no two ways about it.
Adama Diomande entered the game, and he made a quick impact, a header off a corner kick clanging off the bottom of the post just after the hour mark for LAFC.
The tide turned for LAFC again a few minutes later, as Rossi scored the go-ahead strike in the 66th minute, with an approximation of Ibrahimovic’s goal at the other end, before Rossi set up Diomande for an insurance goal two minutes later, the Norwegian scoring on his return after missing the past several weeks due to personal issues.
They needed the insurance goal, too, since the Galaxy got one back in the 77th minute, substitute Rolf Feltscher with an easy header off Romain Alessandrini’s free kick delivery.
But Dio offered another insurance goal, as he scored his second of the night in the 80th minute, dribbling upfield and finishing himself, to make it 5-3.
All in all, it was a typical rivalry game between the sides in most ways. The teams wrestled control, one team came clawing back, there were sublime plays and ridiculous alike, but this one was different, not only because it was a playoff game but of course because it was a rivalry game and LAFC got the much-awaited victory. No joke, it tastes so, so sweet.
LAFC will now get ready for their next playoff game, on Tuesday against the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference Final, at the Banc. It certainly won’t be easy, but LAFC have a monkey off their back and can turn their attention to capturing MLS Cup. Should be a good one!
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