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‘Proper rivalry’ leaves Galaxy defending home turf against LAFC

Baggio Husidic is the only man on the Galaxy’s active roster who’s been around long enough to have played in the team’s last inner-city rivalry with Chivas USA.

It really wasn’t much a rivalry, though — and not just because the Galaxy lost only four times in 33 games with Chivas. What really wrecked it, Husidic said, was the fact the teams shared the StubHub Center.

“It wasn’t really our own turf,” he said.

Chivas folded after the 2014 season and when a new team, the Los Angeles Football Club, arose from the ashes three years later, it did so 13 miles up the 110 Freeway. So when LAFC makes its first visit to a sold-out StubHub Center on Saturday afternoon, Husidic expects a much different atmosphere.

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“This feels more like a proper rivalry, with away fans and home fans,” he said. “You see the fans living in the same city, so you see the LAFC hats, you see the Galaxy hats. That’s kind of cool.

“That’s a bit more exciting than what we had with Chivas.”

LAFC coach Bob Bradley, who coached Chivas in the franchise’s early days, agrees.

“The rivalry in Los Angeles has a chance to be the No. 1 rivalry in the league,” he said. “When teams are from the same city and when there’s this type of rivalry, it’s just different.”

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LA Galaxy’s newest player Zlatan Ibrahimovic, center, of Sweden, in actions during an MLS soccer tra
Zlatan Ibrahimovic gets ready for his first workout with the Galaxy on Friday at StubHub Center.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press )

However, both teams have more than just bragging rights to play for in the inner-city derby, which the fans have dubbed “El Trafico.” The Galaxy (1-1-1) won their opener at home but haven’t won since, thanks in part to a spate of injuries and absences that left them without nine players in last week’s draw in Vancouver.

Striker Ola Kamara, back from international duty with Norway, and captain Ashley Cole, back from a one-game suspension, are both likely to start against LAFC, while midfielders Romain Alessandrini, Jonathan dos Santos and Gio dos Santos, who have been nursing hamstring strains, are expected to be available.

However, coach Sigi Schmid suggested there might other reasons not all of them will play.

“There’s physical and there’s also mentality,” he said. “It’s a big game. It’s a game where we need guys and want guys who want to play.

“You want guys who are committed to playing.”

New signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic will also be available after training for the first time Friday, although he is likely to see only limited time off the bench.

LAFC, meanwhile, is off to a blazing start with wins at Seattle and Real Salt Lake, making it the only MLS expansion team to win the first two games in franchise history on the road. LAFC will be the road team against Saturday, although it will be playing in Southern California for the first time.

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The international break and a bye, which idled LAFC the last three weeks, may have stalled that momentum. But LAFC comes out of the break with a plus-five goal differential, second-best in the league, while rookie forward Diego Rossi leads the league with three assists and is second with three goals.

LAFC will also be buoyed by the presence of Colombian midfielder Eduard Atuesta, 20, who joined the team earlier this month and could make his MLS debut against the Galaxy.

“It’s a big one. It’s an intense one. It’s the first one,” Kamara said of the rivalry game. “It’s in our house too.

“That’s what you want to play this game for. When it’s a lot of passion, that’s what all these players love.”

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter @kbaxter11


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