In the second playoffs version of El Tráfico, LAFC bested their rivals, LA Galaxy, 3-2 in nail-biting stoppage time action. LAFC’s Denis Bouanga scored a brace, their MLS MVP candidate, Cristian Arango netted the game-winner in the 93rd minute, while LA Galaxy’s Samuel Grandsir and Dejan Joveljić scored for the Galaxy.
In the opening minutes, the misbehaving that has become emblematic of El Tráfico set in fast, with one foul almost every five minutes, soon to be followed by a questionable yellow card earned by LA Galaxy’s summer sensation, Riqui Puig. It seemed that Referee Alan Chapman got the memo – no red cards, let them have the playoffs! Thus, we were treated to an authentic MLS-style (code for, physical, not beautiful) onslaught of fouls (29 by the end), and goals to inebriate the sensible soccer senses of any onlooker. A sold-out crowd of 22,305 were blinded by late goals – in the last ten minutes, they simply had to forget the grievances and gripes of the past 79 minutes. But I digress.
Bouanga scored the night’s first goal in the 23rd minute (assist by Carlos Vela) into the far right corner of the net. It was the culmination of a lovely sequence of 19-passes by LAFC and perhaps their best passing network of the match.
But the Galaxy leveled the playing field during a failed turnover in the 44th minute. Eddie Segura was unable to clear the ball out of box with a header, and Grandsir grabbed the rebound firing it into the bottom left corner of the net for his third goal in six matches against LAFC and second this season.
The Gabonese international signing Bounanga again gave LAFC the lead in the 80th minute after the fresh sub Kwadwo Opoku (subbing in for Vela just moments before) was unable to finish his own goal effort.
But again Galaxy tied it up five minutes later when Dejan Joveljc, a sub in the 84th minute, fired a volley from outside the box past Maxime Crépeau.
Then came a fever-pitched play from both teams in stoppage time. In the 93rd minute, LAFC’s Kellyn Acosta directed a corner kick towards the box, Bouanga fired a shot that Galaxy’s goalkeeper Jonathan Bond saved, but MVP candidate Arango was ready for the rebound and netted the winning and final goal of the night. And, while there was still stoppage time left, LA Galaxy seemed to have the wind taken out of their sails. In post-game, LA Galaxy’s head coach Greg Vanney reflected on how even within defeat, there were silver linings for his side. “It’s just continued growth. But we have a lot of really good pieces. We’ve got a group that is now connected like they’ve never been connected before in that locker room. Trusting each other and working for each other. So, we have got a lot to be proud of. And a lot to look forward to as we build forward. So that’s what I’m most pleased about.”
Both of LAFC’s postseason wins thus far have been against LA Galaxy. Both were at home. All of LAFC’s postseason matches have allowed 3 goals by their opponents. Up next is a far greater test. Can LAFC prevent history from repeating itself?
LAFC, the top team during the regular season and two-time Supporters Shield winner, will next host the winner of the Texas Derby – Austin FC and FC Dallas – on October 30th for the chance to advance to the MLS Cup Final on November 5th.