I arrived 2 hours before kickoff and it was packed. Like Black Friday at Target packed.
After dropping off my stuff at an equally packed press box (300 credentialed members!), I made a futile attempt to visit friends around the tailgate areas, but the effort was for naught. One of the charms of the StubHub Center is the venue’s open space, but today I might as well have been at a show, which had the effect of making walking around a longer, more taxing experience. A few times I would hear LAFC fans call out my name, only to turn and see too many black-dressed faces to discern what happened.
It was a dizzying experience.
I have no idea why I was out of breath, but I was. Maybe it was just the anticipation of the game. Then I got a tap on the shoulder and Josh Guesman had a worried look on his face...
.@Ibra_official on the bench to start for #LAGalaxy. https://t.co/xMBkTObjks pic.twitter.com/JMMofsBbtj— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) March 31, 2018
After some mild cursing, I regained composure. How could all three Designated Player be out of the lineup?
I was angry, like we were robbed of the opportunity for Sigi Schmid’s team to put their best foot forward in a game that already felt like everything. A lingering sense of dread began to enter my mind. The organization has had its ups and downs, but LAFC the football club are no laughing matter.
Then the whistle blew and Bob Bradley’s high-pressing unit put on a clinic. Latif Blessing and Diego Rossi stretched out wide is a terrifying sight to behold in person. Carlos Vela’s opening beauty of a goal (Aided by unusually lax marking from Ashley Cole, might I add) was just five minutes into the match, but as Stuart Holden implied when he exclaimed LAFC had been dominating the entire game, it felt like a half hour. My delicious press box breakfast...yeah, didn’t get a bite in.
That second goal was humiliating. David Bingham should have done better, but Vela actually took the time to pick his spot before executing a flawless chip over the Galaxy defenders that kissed the underside of the crossbar before crossing the line.
Even worse, the stadium was rocking with the empowered voices of thousands and thousands of loud away supporters. The northwest section of the StubHub Center overflowing with LAFC fans was located under the fiberglass roof, so their cheers were only amplified.
Call them bandwagon fans, call them posers all you like (We have), but at that moment, they were calling the shots as LAFC chants echoed around the stadium. The match felt done and dusted.
We’ll never know how much foot-to-ass Sigi took part in at halftime, but after Latif Blessing created the third goal and subsequently danced in front of a delirious mob of Black and Gold, the situation seemed hopeless. Even when Sebastian Lletget took advantage of a poor Benny Feilhaber turnover to put the Galaxy on the board, the goal hardly seemed earned. With Bob Bradley’s side carelessly toying with the ball while LA were being “Ole!”-d in their own stadium, it felt like LAFC were tossing their rivals a few pity crumbs.
My colleague Josie Becker rightly pointed out that Galaxy fans have become complacent over the years. Part of that is just the LA culture...Angelinos demand winning and aren’t going to get carried away about it either. Even during the SuperClasico years, Chivas USA were more of an annoying little brother than an equal.
Well, after an hour of being slapped around on the field and in the stands, the collective forces of blue white and gold had enough.
Crowd pleaser. pic.twitter.com/mAmUOrbyhm— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) March 31, 2018
"We got really pissed off."— Adam Serrano (@LAGalaxyInsider) March 31, 2018
When Chris Pontius nodded the ball over the line to put the Galaxy within a single tally, Galaxy fans went absolutely crazy. With both teams confident of earning a result, the Stubhub Center transformed into a non-stop rendition of chants on top of a crescendo of crowd noise.
Fox did a great job on Sunday, but even the production crew couldn’t do justice to the beehive of noise and scenes unfolding in front of our eyes. It was easily the loudest Galaxy game I’ve ever attended.
You know what happened next. Zlatan Zlatan’d LAFC and the place erupted. Absolutely erupted. I’m fatigued just thinking about it. Just watch the first few minutes of the MLS crew’s Instant Reaction to understand the intensity of what we all witnessed. And those dudes were in New York.
When Zlatan sliced home that stunning equalizer, a jolt of electricity more powerful than any guitar solo shot through my body.
Dreamt about this last night. pic.twitter.com/9WZG12rRb9— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) April 1, 2018
When the final whistle blew, myself Josie and Britt Pergl descended down the stairs to the bowels of the Stubhub Center facilities where Josh was waiting. Hugs were exchanges followed by a mad dash to the locker room, all of while pondering wondering what the hell had just happened.
FINAL- Galaxy 4, LAFC 3. Zlatan comes off the bench to help the Galaxy complete the comeback from 3-0 down. Probably the best MLS game I’ve ever been to in my 20 years covering the league. Absurd swings and an amazing debut by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) March 31, 2018