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Bumper to Bumper: LA Galaxy 3, LAFC 2

A hat trick from Zlatan Ibrahimovic wins El Trafico for the Galaxy.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at LA Galaxy Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Football club met the LA Galaxy in Carson Friday night for the fourth edition of El Tráfico. And after a chaotic nine days with four matches, LAFC finally had a week’s rest, just to suffer a tough 3-2 loss at the hands of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s second MLS hat trick.

The rest allowed LAFC to return the lineup back to full strength featuring familiar names like Walker Zimmerman, Eddie Segura, Eduard Atuesta, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Carlos Vela, and Tyler Miller in net.

Towards the end of the second minute, Vela was given a through ball from Kaye, who had just taken the ball away in the midfield. Vela received the ball across his body onto his right side, but his first touch was rather heavy and had to chase it down. Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham came out and dove towards the ball, but ended up taking down Vela, giving LAFC an early penalty.

The Captain slowly jogged up to the penalty spot by the fourth minute and calmly placed his 20th goal in as many games into the bottom left corner, making him the fastest player in MLS history to 20 goals in a single season.

The Galaxy came back trying to equalize in the sixth minute. A flurry of three shots on net was met with a flurry of as many saves by Miller.

It would not be enough however, as Ibrahimovic matched Vela in the eighth minute. A lobbed pass towards Ibrahimovic from midfield landed at his feet. With a much smaller Atuesta chasing him down, Ibrahimovic lifted the ball over Atuesta with a smooth first touch and then buried a volleyed shot past the diving Miller inside the close post to restart the game.

After thrilling and tumultuous first ten minutes, both teams started to slow down their pace and settle into the rhythm of the game. By the 25th minute, LAFC controlled 57 percent of possession but the Galaxy had produced five shots to LAFC’s three.

The Galaxy’s Diego Polenta also earned the game’s first yellow card in the 21st minute by sticking a foot out to trip up the surging Tristan Blackmon some ten yards outside of the Galaxy’s box.

In the 30th minute, Miller came up huge again. Polenta drew two defenders and back-heeled a sweet through ball to the overlapping Uriel Antuna. Antuna curled in a cross and an unmarked Favio Álvarez headed a shot towards the bottom left corner, but Miller dove with full extension to keep the game knotted at one goal apiece.

Jonathan dos Santos earned the Galaxy’s second yellow card in the 35th minute when he slide tackled Zimmerman and followed through Zimmerman’s shin.

Four minutes later, Atuesta was given a yellow card as well after sliding into Joe Corona late. The tension and tempers of the players was visibility growing at this point.

Adama Diomande finally had his first impactful touches of the game in the 43rd minute. He received the ball outside the box, turned outside and dribbled through and with three Galaxy defenders before taking a shot. It was deflected out for LAFC’s first corner, but nothing came of the cross.

Three minutes of added yielded no notable plays, and so the city of Los Angeles went into halftime tied at one. LAFC still enjoyed a 57 percent possession advantage, but both teams were tied at seven shots apiece.

Though LAFC controlled most of the game, the Galaxy were the better team, producing five shots on goal while LAFC could not find another after Vela’s penalty. While Vela was given the ball plenty like normal, Diomande and Diego Rossi had very quiet first half performances and their usual impact was sorely missed.

Just two minutes into the second half, the Galaxy connected on some nice passes to create a shot for Ibrahimovic. Dos Santos played the ball across the 18-yard line and Alvarez looked like he would be receiving the ball at the top of the box, but he dummied the ball and let roll in front of the trailing Ibrahimovic, who one-timed a bullet right at Miller. With two hands, Miller pushed the ball over the bar for the Galaxy’s fourth corner.

In the 51st minute, Kaye was shown a yellow card after coming down on the ball and Rolf Feltscher’s foot with his studs showing.

Then, in the 56th minute, Ibrahimovic put the Galaxy on top. Latif Blessing tried to clear the ball from his own half up the line, but it went right to the feet of Polenta outside the left corner of the box. Polenta immediately sent a cross towards the far post where Ibrahimovic was being solo marked by the much shorter Jordan Harvey. Ibrahimovic rose over Harvey and headed the ball back across the drifting Miller and into the net.

Araujo was shown the game’s fifth yellow card in the 61st minute. He held Kaye from dribbling around him but also time wasted by skipping away with the ball then throwing it behind the spot of the foul.

Lee Nguyen replaced Kaye and Mohamed El-Munir replaced Jordan Harvey in the 64th minute as the first substitutions from either team. Nguyen moved to the left midfield position, moving Blessing to the right side. At the same time, Vela took over the striker position and moved Diomande to the left wing.

In the 67th minute, LAFC almost had its equalizer. Blessing dribbled into the left side of the box and past three defenders. He put a weak shot on goal which was saved, then again on the rebound, but it was blocked.

The next minute, Vela received a nice pass inside the box right on the Galaxy’s back line. He turned with only Bingham to beat, but Galaxy defensemen Giancarlo Gonzalez slid in to knock the ball into the hands of Bingham at the last second.

It seemed LAFC started to take control of the momentum after the substitutions. In the 70th minute, Diomande fed a pass wide right to Rossi with nobody in front of him. He ripped a shot towards the upper near corner that beat Bingham, but deflected off the crossbar for a harmless goal kick.

But just as quickly as LAFC started to take control of the game back, Ibrahimovic took it right back. He won the first touch off the goal kick and was given a pass right back from a teammate. Ibrahimovic received the ball across his body onto his left side and ripped a left-footed shot from outside the box into the bottom right corner to complete the hat trick. Miller had no chance to react.

In the 73rd minute, Atuesta was taken down hard on the sideline by Alvarez, then crunched while he was falling to the ground by the closing Feltscher. Segura immediately sprinted over face-to-face with Feltscher and the two jawed and shoved each other a few times. Both teams quickly came to their teammates’ aids and tempers flared.

Once things cooled off enough to resume play, both Segura and Alvarez were issued yellow cards.

Five minutes later, Nguyen had the ball about ten yards outside of the Galaxy’s box with one defender in front of him. He showed left and cut back to his right and ripped a curling shot towards the bottom left corner, but it was securely saved by Bingham with two hands.

In the 84th minute, Feltscher ran up behind Rossi and pushed him to the ground late after Rossi had already released the ball. He was shown the game’s eighth yellow card.

Five minutes of added time was put on the board but Vela finally slotted home a second goal in the 97th minute after more fouls prolonged the final whistle. Vela received a crisp pass from Atuesta on the 18-yard line, turned, and finished. The Black-and-Gold rushed to get the ball out of the net to resume play as quickly as possible. After a brief pause, the goal was confirmed as not offside.

But it was too little, too late. The final whistle was blown in the 99th minute and the Galaxy could continue to boast that they still have not lost a game to its crosstown rival in four games, bringing LAFC’s Trafico record to 0-2-2.

The win put the Galaxy back into second place in the Western Conference while FC still holds a nine point lead in first place. LAFC will have another full week until its next match on Friday at the Banc hosting Atlanta United FC.

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