LOS ANGELES – The Galaxy apparently still own Southern California, but the five-time MLS Cup champions weren’t exactly celebrating the latest extension to their figurative reign after settling for a 3-3 tie with crosstown rival Los Angeles FC on Sunday in front of an energetic crowd of 22,757 at Banc of California Stadium.
The Galaxy stretched their advantage in the series with their bitter rival to 2-0-3, but the end result ultimately was disappointing after they squandered a 3-1 lead just 16 minutes into the match and held on in the final 45 minutes.
“We were winning 3-1, I think we have to win the game,” Galaxy defender Rolf Feltscher said.
“You’re winning 3-1,” Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic said, “I think you should hold the result.”
LAFC remained unbeaten at home at 11-0-2, with the other blemish a scoreless draw with the Chicago Fire on May 4, and now has outscored opponents a staggering 44-16 at home. It also owns an overall goal differential of plus 46, breaking the old league mark of plus 41 held by the 1998 Galaxy.
The visitors, however, held the upper hand early. In fact, it took only two minutes for the Galaxy to score, that coming on a beautiful combination between Cristian Pavon – who dribbled through two defenders — and Ibrahimovic, who supplied the finishing touch.
Los Angeles FC, however, responded 12 minutes later on a virtual tap-in by Latif Blessing near the goal line.
A fast start to the match got even faster two minutes later when Ibrahimovic scored again, this time collecting a long pass from Favio Alvarez, dribbling around onrushing LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller and putting it away for the 2-1 edge.
That advantage became 3-1 barely a minute later on Pavon’s first goal as a member of the Galaxy when he evaded LAFC defender Walker Zimmerman and scored with his right foot.
“They kind of played into our hands the first 15-20 minutes,” Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham said of LAFC. “It’s like they wanted to score a goal in the first minute of the game, and once we got the ball we just flew past them and scored.”
But LAFC, proud owners of the league’s highest-scoring offense, made it 3-2 in extra time of the first half when Blessing scored again from in close.
“The goal changed the game, everyone knows that,” said Bingham, who was credited with seven saves, including big stops on Carlos Vela (who left early in the second half with an apparent right hamstring injury) in the seventh minute and Diego Rossi in the 57th minute. “I mean, they got a couple of lucky bounces tonight for two of their goals and that happens.
“Coming in here and getting a point is going to help us in the long run and we look forward to the coming weekend.”
The Galaxy, however, can’t help but think about what might have been as they wasted not only a chance at their first victory on the road since a 2-0 triumph at FC Cincinnati on June 22 but an opportunity to add to their apparent hex over their arch-rival.
LAFC out-shot the Galaxy 27-10 overall and 13-2 in the second half, including a 4-0 edge in shots on target.
“The second (half) we were doing opposite of what we should have done,” Ibrahimovic said. “When you get tired, you need to make it easy for yourself. We made it difficult. We lost too many balls, we were even more tired and we were under pressure the whole game.
“They scored the third (goal), then we were just defending.”
Galaxy head coach Guillermo Schelotto said the tie wasn’t as disappointing as one might think.
“It’s good for us to get one point,” he said. “We’re fighting to get to the playoffs. We need to win one of the next games, Seattle (on Sunday, Sept. 1) or Colorado (on Wednesday, Sept. 11), away games.
“If we can keep playing like today, especially the first half, I think we can win those two.”