Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez scored in the LA Galaxy victory and helped lead a max-effort defense of a sold-out stadium for El Trafico.
CARSON, Calif. — At this point, you have to expect the unexpected. You must expect the “I’ve never seen that before” moment. And you have to expect controversy, chaos, and electricity from each and every El Trafico that’s played regardless of location, timing, or player availability.
On Saturday afternoon, the LA Galaxy got all of that and more in their 2-1 victory over visiting Los Angeles FC in front of the third-straight home sell-out for the club (25,174).
Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez scored his fifth goal of the year — tying for the league lead with Dallas’ Jesus Ferreira and FC Cincinnati’s Brandon Vazquez and putting him one goal ahead of LAFC’s Carlos Vela, who failed to score in the match.
And in his last 13 games played at Dignity Health Sports Park dating back to April 25, 2021, Chicharito has tallied 12 goals and two assists. His 17 goals in 21 games last season wasn’t a fluke. The man can score goals at will.
The game-winner, however, would come from defender Sega Coulibaly who scored his first goal in MLS for the Galaxy.
Samuel Grandsir assisted on both goals, and Raheem Edwards added his fifth assist of the season and now leads all MLS players in the category.
But with Chicharito scoring in the 13th-minute and Coulibaly notching his goal in the 31st-minute, the Galaxy had plenty of game to kill off. And while they wrestled control of the match away from LAFC for the first 40 minutes or so, they failed to kill off a game that saw them stretched to the absolute breaking point.
LAFC’s Christian Arango scored in the 79th-minute to cut the lead in half and after the Galaxy were forced into using all five of their subs to get cramping muscles, limping players, and life into the last 20 minutes of the game.
Edwards, who has been the Galaxy’s most involved player through the first six games, claimed he was out of gas during the final 15 minutes. That would probably be true of most of the Galaxy’s field players. And even goalkeeper Jonathan Bond was cramping toward the end of the game.
Sacha Kljestan replaced Julian Araujo just before the 60-minute mark, with Kljestan just returning to training on Thursday after a dance with the league’s health and safety protocols. Douglas Cost entered the match for Grandsir, as well. With Costa putting his injured hamstring to test for the first time since the Galaxy’s 1-0 loss to Orlando on March 19.
Then, seven minutes later, Greg Vanney took Victor Vazquez off the field for Kevin Cabral, Nick DePuy for Derrick Williams (he was cramping and exhausted), and Dejan Joveljic for Chicharito.
Many of these subs were to make up for the red card suspension for Mark Delgado. That’s even why Kelvin Leerdam played the defensive midfield position – and played it well.
But not all was going to plan. The Galaxy couldn’t get the third goal despite Cabral and Efrain Alvarez getting good looks in the second half, and the Galaxy slowly lost the feel of the midfield with LAFC sending waves of attacks forward.
Finally, after referee Chris Penso announced eight minutes of stoppage time, LAFC would get their game-tying goal. Until they didn’t.
In a quick surge forward, Vela would send in a cross with his left foot across the face of goal. The ball would hit off of Latif Blessing before deflecting toward defender Mamadou Fall. Jonathan Bond saved his shot, but the rebound was toe-poked home by Blessing.
Galaxy players looked longingly for a raised flag, but none came. And even then, the assistant referees had already ruled out two other Vela goals and looked unlikely to trash another LAFC chance.
VAR, however, had other thoughts. Edvin Jurisevic got into Penso’s ear and told him he needed to look at the play. And with both teams at midfield expecting a Galaxy kick-off, Penso quickly saw on video what is rather evident on replay – that when the ball is touched by Blessing, Fall was offside. And even coming back to the ball after it constitutes being offside at the moment of impact by Blessing.
Penso waved the goal off and then closed out the 8-minutes of stoppage time as Bond put the ball back into play.
“A review for offside was recommended by the VAR,” referee Penso wrote in his official response to a pool reporter’s question issued after the match. “The referee was shown clear evidence that in the build-up prior to the goal being scored, LAFC #5 (Fall) was in a clear offside position when the ball was last touched by an attacker, which in this instance was LAFC #7 (Blessing).”
It was a rather shocking way to end the game for LAFC, but it was more of a relief than a celebration from the Galaxy.
“They’re derby matches, and both teams want to impose themselves on the other,” Vanney told reporters after the win. “And, I thought we did so early in the game. The second half of the first half, I thought we were a little passive, and we were inviting them on top of us. We were rushing the final pass. We weren’t keeping possession. We weren’t putting anything that looked like what we do on the field and force them to have to defend us. It felt like the game was too much in the vision of how they want to see the game.”
But Vanney concluded that thought while speaking of the effort that was put out by the team. A true team victory that made up for the shortcomings of the personnel available.
“We certainly endured and did other things in front of the goal for the stretch of it,” he said. “But, nobody wants to give an inch in these games, and that’s a big part of it.”
With the victory, the Galaxy lept over Real Salt Lake and now sit just one point behind LAFC for the Western Conference lead.
They also kept themselves undefeated at home against their rivals (5-0-2 at DHSP) and ended LAFC’s undefeated start to the season.
Additionally, the Galaxy now find themselves third in line for the Supporters Shield with a record of 4-2-0.
They’ll travel to Chicago on Thursday for their Saturday match against the Fire and round out April with games against Nashville and Salt Lake.
“We got the three points,” Chicharito said. They had chances, and two were offside [the goal from Carlos Vela and the one from Latif Blessing at the end]. We knew it was going to be like that.
“It’s El Tráfico. A win is a win. To get the three points in our stadium with our fans… LA Galaxy and Los Angeles are gold, blue, and white.”