My enemy brings out the best in me. The notion of having a twin soul makes people uncomfortable. Calling these two teams soccer sisters, two halves of a whole, or opposite sides of a coin, might sound trite. Yet, watching the Banc of California Stadium erupt in an 8-goal festival this Thursday night was the kind of exhilaration only twin souls can bring. Rather than focusing on the differences between the two Los Angeles crosstown rivals, it’s sometimes a breath of fresh air to think upon the common threads. Both have defensive holes that result in some leaked goals. Both have central figures tallying individual goals, chasing records. And, not long after the second half began, both teams had accumulated 2 goals apiece.
You could hear the crowd chants grow in intensity along with the fervent goal-fest that ensued in the second half. The seesaw of sound between the sides was impossible to ignore, and at pace with the action on the pitch. For an unbiased onlooker, it was the definition of the beautiful game.
Captain Carlos Vela scored two goals in the first half and valiantly set up Diego Rossi’s tie breaking goal in the second half. The sub of the match, Adama Diomande, notched two goals in the second half. Meanwhile, the lion did not just go quietly into the night. Zlatan Ibrahimović set up Cristian Pavon’s goal and then scored the tying goal. It was his ninth against LAFC. Romain Alessandrini next set up a header by Rolf Feltscher in the 77th minute to cut LAFC’s lead to 4-3. In the 80th minute, Diomande’s second goal, brought the hopes of LA Galaxy’s faithful to a halt. LAFC were finally playing their way on their pitch. It was visible to their supporters and their coach.
Tonight, as the sixth chapter of El Trafico (and final of the year) came to a close, the celebratory feeling quickly changed to a melancholy hush. The goal race between the two giants concludes with Zlatan finishing at 31, his future here unknown, and the loss of his presence is not one most MLS fans desire. One man’s MLS journey may likely have ended tonight while grasping his (I can’t write it here…) gesturing at LAFC fans, while the other, too shy to use the word “cojones” in a post-game presser, is still taking it game-by-game, one more closer to his goal. Keeping his eyes on the prize, the MLS Cup – the first for LAFC – is just two wins away.
He recalled his thoughts the moment LAFC’s first playoff win sank in. “I want to win the MLS [Cup]. My mind was just thinking this was one step closer. All the work we put in, hard runs and performance of the team, it was a big moment. It was a big moment for us and we worked for that type of game. We want more and this team wants to win. The team wants to have the best season in history.”
A patient Vela is ready to please his city.