Pasadena, CA – The fireworks shooting off over the Rose Bowl would always have been the perfect backdrop.
An anticipated game that was originally set to kick off the MLS season in epic fashion at the Rose Bowl had to be postponed due to bad weather in Southern California.
What happened from February to July 4th set the table perfectly for the LA Galaxy and LAFC to renew their rivalry in front of a new MLS record 82,110 fans. And Riqui Puig made sure the show was worthy as he defeated Los Angeles native LAFC 2-1.
On paper, it’s never been so close – LAFC are the defending MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield winners, while the Galaxy live life at the bottom of the standings. But El Trafico always means more, regardless of the current format or any other factors surrounding the teams. It was clear that the Galaxy were out to set a precedent in what was technically a home game, in a stadium that OG teams in the late ’90s used to play in. Coupled with a really good chance by LAFC’s leading scorer Dennis Bouanga in the 16th minute, the first 45 minutes belonged to the hosts.
Puig was, as is usually the case, a level above everyone else on the field. His charm and speed were on full display for all to see, in a match where the Spaniard was bringing the family. In the 26th minute, it paid off as one of his dangerous runs cleared space and fed Tyler Boyd, who wrestled against a defender and grabbed a powerful strike from the edge of the penalty area to open the scoring.
The Galaxy continued to dictate the flow and probably could have scored another goal, but the lack of finishing that had plagued them all year came back to turn them around.
Goalkeeper Jonathan Bond had to take Jonathan Klinsmann off at break due to injury, and the second half was very different as LAFC ramped up the pressure and hung the Galaxy on their end.
LAFC’s Timothy Tillman headed a ball close to the post from a corner and Elie Sanchez was there for the equalizer in the 57th minute.
But this night would always belong to the galaxy. It just felt like destiny. Puig was rewarded for his sensational performance with a goal of his own, sparked by a beautiful cross from Douglas Costa to Boyd, who returned the favor with a pass of his own.
Carlos Vela thought he had leveled the game in the 84th minute but was a bit offside. A slight growl from the LAFC fans was drowned out by the “LA Galaxy” chants that crept loudly into the night.
Blue and yellow smoke followed and billowed through the Pasadena air.
These games. This rivalry.
LAFC is clearly the better team right now, but Los Angeles belonged to one team and one team only at a historic moment for MLS and soccer in the United States.
Fittingly, it was the LA Galaxy.
“Alcohol enthusiast. Twitter ninja. Tv lover. Falls down a lot. Hipster-friendly coffee geek.”