Dénis Bouanga scored a brace on Saturday night as LAFC beat city rivals LA Galaxy 4-2 at BMO Stadium.
The 21st edition of “El Trafico” did not disappoint, as both teams were in desperate need of a victory. With less than 10 games remaining in the MLS Regular Season, LAFC came into the game off the bounce of three consecutive losses but still sat in 3rd place in the Western Conference. The Galaxy had lost only once in MLS Regular Season play since firing club president Chris Klein in late May but still found themselves in 13th in the West, roughly two wins away from the playoff line.
“I think it was very clear from minute one who was winning this game tonight,” LAFC head coach Steven Cherundolo said in his post-match interview. “I think we were the better team, we had the better chances, the statistics would speak for that as well.”
Bouanga had not scored in MLS since July 8th, but he found the net 24 minutes in with a powerful header inside the box. The Gabonese striker floated in between Galaxy center-backs Chris Mavinga and Maya Yoshida, and finished a cross from Diego Palacios past goalkeeper Jonathan Bond to give the black and gold the lead.
LAFC’s lead lasted only seconds though, as the Galaxy responded instantly through British striker Billy Sharp. The former Sheffield United player found space inside the box, and made a one-time finish to the near post roughly one minute after Bouanga’s opener. Sharp has now scored three goals since signing with the Galaxy in August.
The early response didn’t phase the hosts, as they retook the lead just eight minutes after Sharp’s goal. This time, it would be fullback Ryan Hollingshead to get on the scoresheet, firing a low shot that was just out of the reach of Bond.
The Galaxy only managed to get one shot on target in the first half compared to LAFC’s five. The Galaxy’s midfield struggled to connect with Sharp in attack and was missing the creativity of Douglas Costa, who sat out of the match due to a hamstring issue.
“[Costa] started to feel tight in his hamstring so yesterday we tried to just loosen him up a little bit,” coach Greg Vanney told the media. “He was still feeling it today, and we just couldn’t risk him. Even though it’s a really important game, it’s not the last game.”
Though without Costa and other key players, Maya Yoshida got his first goal as a Galaxy player in the 59th minute from a header, leveling the blue, white, and gold with about 30 minutes to go.
With the match locked at 2-2, it was a mistake by Galaxy center-back Chris Mavinga that proved to be the difference between the two sides. A sloppy back pass was easily intercepted by Bouanga, who rounded Bond to have an easy finish on net in front of The 3252, LAFC’s supporter group. It got worse for the Galaxy minutes later as a fast counter saw Timothy Tillman fire a shot near post, with the Galaxy exposed on the break.
Tillman’s goal firmly burst the Galaxy’s bubble, who lost their 7th game against LAFC in the last 21 meetings. Vanney’s side remains in 13th place in the Western Conference, five points adrift of the playoff line. With the victory, LAFC moves to 2nd in the West, six points behind leaders St. Louis City FC, whom they play on Wednesday.
Despite the loss, Vanney still remains optimistic of the Galaxy’s playoff chances.
“For us, our home games are really important,” Vanney continued after the game. “The next two games are against teams that we are trying to track down, amongst other games in front of us.”