For better or worse, Southern California’s MLS rivalry has been christened El Tráfico, a nod to the area’s infamous traffic and the soccer cliché of calling every big game a clásico.
But in the case of the Galaxy-LAFC game, the traffic only seems to run one way when the games are played in Carson. Seven times the Galaxy have invited LAFC to make the 12-mile drive down the 110 Freeway to Dignity Health Sports Park, and seven times the Galaxy have sent their neighbors home without a win.
The most recent example came Saturday, when LAFC had three goals disallowed by the officials, the final one deep in stoppage time, allowing the Galaxy to escape with a wild 2-1 victory that ended with LAFC’s bench charging the field to confront referee Chris Penso.
The Galaxy’s goals, both in the first half, came from Javier “Chicharito” Hernández and Sega Coulibaly. LAFC’s only score came in the 79th minute from second-half substitute Cristian Arango, who nearly tied the score following a collision with Galaxy keeper Jonathan Bond four minutes later.
Latif Blessing — and everyone in the sellout crowd of 25,174 — believed LAFC had tied the score deep in stoppage time when Blessing redirected a Carlos Vela feed past Bond. But after initially awarding the goal, Penso stopped play, consulted a video reply and waved it off.
He then whistled the game over — and with it LAFC’s unbeaten start too.
LAFC came in tied for the MLS lead in points and goals, and though it started aggressively, putting two dangerous balls on goal in the first minute, it was the Galaxy (4-2-0) who scored first, Hernández putting a one-bounce header into the net in the 13th minute.
Samuel Grandsir set up the score with a long right-footed cross from outside the penalty area that found Hernández splitting defenders Mamadou Fall and Diego Palacios on a run to the far post. The Galaxy captain had so much space, he barely had to jump to nod the ball to the ground and past LAFC keeper Maxime Crepeau on a hop for his fifth goal in six games.
LAFC (4-1-1) had a chance to even the score in the 23rd minute after a Galaxy turnover deep in their own end, but Vela’s left-footed shot at a wide-open net struck the left post instead.
That was the end of Vela’s poor luck. Although he did find the back of the net five minutes later, heading in a Kellyn Acosta free kick, assistant referee Jeremy Hanson raised his flag signaling Vela was offside, negating the score. It was one of two goals Vela would lose to an offside call, and it proved extra painful three minutes later when Coulibaly’s first MLS goal doubled the Galaxy’s lead.
Again it was Grandsir who made it happen, chesting down a pass inside the 18-yard box, then slipping a low left-footed pass through LAFC’s defense for Coulibaly, who charged in from the right side of the six-yard box for an easy finish.
The two-assist game was Grandsir’s first in MLS, although LAFC defender Jesús Murillo could have gotten an assist as well after inexplicably pulling up at the far post, leaving Coulibaly with yards of space from which to shoot.
Seventy-four seconds into the second half, Vela appeared to halve the LAFC deficit, only to have that score called back by Logan Brown, the assistant referee on the far side of the field.
Vela did have a hand in his team’s only goal, though, fighting off Galaxy defender Nick DePuy to get on the end of Palacios’ throw-in before putting a shot on goal. Bond, who finished with six saves, blocked it cleanly, but the rebound bounced straight to Arango, who knocked it in.
Four minutes later, Arango chased a pass toward the far post and went up for header, only to collide heavily with Bond, who tried to punch the ball away. As Arango and Bond dropped to the turf in heap, the loose ball bounded toward the goal before Galaxy defender Raheem Edwards alertly cleared it off the line.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.