Local Soccer Teams Square Off

LA Football Club coming off Victory over Houston Dynamo

Vela vs. Zlatan reads the hype. El Trafico 4, or LA Clasico 4 as preferred by LAFC head coach Bob Bradley, is ramping up quickly in the very, very short Major League Soccer history between the two Los Angeles franchises. This Friday night, July 19, the L.A. Galaxy hosts Los Angeles Football Club 7:30 p.m. at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson.

The Galaxy began as one of eight MLS charter members in 1996, their five Cup titles the most in league history. They are also tied with D.C. United for most Supporters' Shields with four, given to the team with the best overall season record. In remarkable comparison, instant rival LAFC has the league's best form and record in only their second MLS season.

The Galaxy have the edge in the derby tally with a win and two draws in three matches between the clubs in 2018. The first intercity clash was christened by long-time international star Zlatan Ibrahimovic in his MLS debut with the Galaxy, March 31, 2018. He scored two memorable goals to rally a 4-3 victory over LAFC at the previously named StubHub Center in Carson.

His LAFC counterpart, current leading MVP candidate Carlos Vela, scored the opening two goals in that match as the Black and Gold took a 3-0 lead shortly into the second half. "We have to take positives from it," said Vela following LAFC's first loss in its history. "At the end of the day, we are still a new team and one that will learn from tough moments. Today was one of them."

Ibrahimovic responded in his unique way: "I think I heard: "We want Zlatan. We want Zlatan." And I gave them Zlatan. So they were pushing me and I was just giving back. So, fantastic support... If you look back, every team I came to in the first official game, I scored. And I said I will not let them down today. I will score also today."

Vela also scored the first goal in the next match at Banc of California Stadium, July 26, 2018 as LAFC took another 2-0 lead into halftime. But he Galaxy tied it with two late goals in the last 10 minutes of regulation. Back to StubHub Center, August 24, 2018: Zlatan scored an early goal before Vela placed the equalizer with a penalty kick in the 51st minute, highlighting a 1-1 draw.

This season the Black and Gold are dominating the Supporters' Shield race with 46 points in 20 games, ten better than closest rival Philadelphia Union. The Galaxy have dropped to third place in the conference with 34 points after having won seven of its first nine games this season. LAFC also leads the league in scoring with 53 goals. The Galaxy, with 27 total goals, have only scored more than five other MLS clubs.

LAFC improved their 2019 record to 14-2-4 after last Friday's improbable 3-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Stadium. The win came with only two days rest following their very disappointing 1-0 U.S. Open Cup loss to the Portland Timbers at the Banc last Wednesday. The Open Cup was a top-three priority for LAFC, though still leaving the Supporters' Shield and the MLS Cup title very much in the picture.

The loss to the Timbers was the first for LAFC at the Banc of California Stadium this year. Yet, they still remain unbeaten in MLS action at home this season at 8-0-1. The Timbers consistently and physically disrupted LAFC's passing lanes throughout the match. Timbers forward Jeremy Ebobisse scored in the 84th minute for lone score.

"That's their formula, they're physical, the tightness at the center of the field, trying to use that for transition," said Bradley. "And then in other moments, can we pass quickly enough, can we control the game, can we play through and get an advantage? We were not good enough when we were in those moments."

In the win over Houston, the Dynamo opened with a goal in the third minute when Romell Quioto's clean strike over and behind LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller grabbed a 1-0 lead. LAFC, playing predominantly with a second-tier lineup, was barely hanging on until LAFC striker Adama Diamande took matters onto his own: head and foot. His eye-pleasing high-angled header tied the score at 1-1, a dramatic momentum change that ended the first half.

Dio on returning to form: "I've been out for a while with injuries and starting to build confidence back now. My first night with minutes in a long time, and just starting to get the groove back and be a better player that I'm used to."

Four minutes into the second half he punched a short grounder between Dynamo goalkeeper Joe Willis and the left post for the 2-1 go-ahead score. Midfielders figured prominently on both scores as Lee Nguyen assisted on both and Peter-Lee Vassell on Dio's first goal. Substitute left winger Diego Rossi scored the insurance goal on assists by right winger Josh Perez and Dio.

"We had a nervous start. A lot of guys got a chance to play tonight that don't normally play, and you could see the nerves," said Bradley. "We give up the early goal, need a save or two from Tyler and an incredible play from Mohamed El-Munir just to keep it at one."

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