LOS ANGELES, Oct 25 (Reuters) - When Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) was officially launched more than a year ago the owners dreamed of a day like Thursday when their team could overcome the LA Galaxy and rule a city that had belonged to Major League Soccer’s glamour club.
LAFC had done everything in their power to try to eclipse the Galaxy from building a new $350 million stadium complex to hiring a big-name coach in former United States manager Bob Bradley and bringing in top quality players.
Everything, that is, except actually beating the Galaxy.
LAFC’s 5-3 post-season win over their nemesis in many ways was the official start of a rivalry. With the triumph, the infant club completed its road to validation in the cross-town match-up known as ‘El Trafico’.
“Finally. Finally,” LAFC forward Adama Diomande told reporters after Thursday’s victory. “It’s been ghosting us for a long time and now when it really matters we’re up for it. The whole group, fans, everyone was behind us. (To) be the best team in LA, that’s a great win for us.”
LAFC have been the best team in the MLS for an entire campaign, setting the single-season record for points (72) and goal difference (+48) and tying the goals scored record (85).
Best in the league, yet second billing in their own city where the Galaxy own a record five MLS Cups. LAFC had failed to defeat their rivals in their five previous meetings.
After Galaxy snatched a 3-2 win in July, their talismanic Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic told a reporter it was a mistake to compare him to LAFC’s Mexico standout Carlos Vela.
Both players scored in the playoff tilt and are tied with a leading nine goals apiece in career match-ups between the sides. Yet Vela is on the verge of becoming league MVP after breaking the single-season record for regular season goals with 34.
Still, respect would clearly have to be taken before it was given by the Galaxy.
“Obviously, somewhere along the line you just need to (beat them),” Bradley said. “We never spent time talking about the other games. We all knew that it was our time. It was that simple.
“After they beat Minnesota (in the first round of the playoffs), we said, ‘Great, we want the Galaxy’. It had to be the Galaxy. It was our time, and I think that showed.”
The atmosphere at LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium lived up to the ‘El Trafico’ series name. Congestion around the stadium forced fans to use alternative parking lots far from the ground.
Inside, it was more frantic than usual in the 22,000-seat stadium which has sold out for every LAFC game so far.
LAFC will now face the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference final, though that almost seems secondary after Thursday’s LA breakthrough.
“This was a really decisive game,” LAFC forward Diego Rossi said. “We hadn’t found a way to win (against the Galaxy). We looked at our rival and played our game.” (Reporting by Jahmal Corner; editing by Ken Ferris)