El Tráfico takes a new turn with Galaxy and LAFC meeting in U.S. Open Cup

Galaxy's Sega Coulibaly and Julian Araujo control the ball against LAFC's Kellyn Acosta.
Galaxy’s Sega Coulibaly, left, and Julian Araujo, right, control the ball against LAFC’s Kellyn Acosta at Dignity Health Sports Park on April 9.
(Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)

Since LAFC entered the league in 2018, only one MLS team has won more regular-season games. Yet none of those wins have come at Dignity Health Sports Park, the road stadium where the team has played most often.

LAFC will make the short drive to Carson again Wednesday to face the Galaxy in a match that will have no impact on the MLS standings but is of massive importance everywhere else. The game will mark the first meeting of the neighborhood rivals in the U.S. Open Cup, the oldest soccer competition in the country, and there will be more at stake than bragging rights since the winner will go on to the tournament quarterfinals and the loser goes home.

“All my teammates, coaching staff, know that no matter if it’s in the league, or Open Cup or a friendly, these kinds of games [are] special,” LAFC midfielder Ilie Sánchez said. “It’s especially important for us knowing that tomorrow is either you win or you’re out.”


For all its success elsewhere, LAFC has won just three of the first 14 El Tráficos, as the inter-city derby is known. And the team is 0-5-2 in the seven meetings in Carson, including a 2-1 loss in MLS play in April.

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The teams have gone in different directions since: LAFC (8-3-2) has lost just two of seven MLS games and has the league’s best record while the Galaxy has won just twice and were booed off the field after their last two home games, which they lost by a combined 6-1.

That could all be forgotten Wednesday with a home win in the rivalry game, even if it doesn’t help the team in the standings.

“This is the perfect way to rebound. You want your home to be your fortress but lately it hasn’t been,” Galaxy defender Raheem Edwards said.

Added Galaxy coach Greg Vanney: “First and foremost, in any derby it’s a competition. It’s all based on emotion. There’s bragging rights. There’s things in there that the fans see as hugely important, that the players see as hugely important.

Galaxy forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernández congratulates midfielder Efrain Alvarez.
Galaxy forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, left, congratulates midfielder Efrain Alvarez after the Galaxy defeated Charlotte FC on March 5.
(Jacob Kupferman / Associated Press)

“Ultimately, the race for both teams is trophies.”

And a win Wednesday will move the victor a step closer to a prize. LAFC, which has reached the quarterfinals in two previous U.S. Open Cup competitions, needs another win to keep that streak alive. The Galaxy are chasing their third quarterfinal appearance in nine tournament tries.

“You win, you carry on. You lose, you go home,” LAFC goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau said. “It’s really important to go to the final, have silverware at the end of the day. This is why we play, to get silverware.”

Both teams will come in tired since they’ll be playing their fourth game in 11 days but LAFC will have a full squad and the Galaxy will be missing defenders Sega Coulibaly and Eriq Zavaleta and midfielder Sacha Kljestan to injuries.

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If there weren’t already enough on the line, for Edwards the game offers another chance to settle a personal score with the team he played for last season and a fanbase — LAFC’s 3252 supporters’ union — that said farewell over the winter.

“I want to beat LAFC so bad. I want to beat them because of the 3252,” he said Tuesday. ”I want to piss them off.”