If you were lucky enough to watch history unfold in real time Saturday afternoon at the StubHub Center, you had the privilege of viewing the biggest, most entertaining match this league has ever seen.
No, this is not hyperbole. And unlike the El Trafico name itself, we don’t need a week to debate this either. MLS match No. 5,113 was the greatest of all-time.
To fully appreciate the magnitude of the occasion, we have to rewind a bit. Even before a ball had been kicked, the buildup to this game was unprecedented. LA Galaxy vs. LAFC was months if not years in the making. Technically this was the first matchup, but the bad blood between the two fanbases has been simmering for over a decade.
Things were ratcheted up a notch when the Galaxy pulled off a coup and signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic, paving the way for a debut that would shake the the city of Los Angeles and the footballing world. Angelenos knew they were in for a treat: Two world premieres in one afternoon.
On social media, #ElTrafico got everyone talking for all the right and wrong reasons. All of a sudden the game was the talk of the town, and LA’s a big place.
With so much anticipation, there was no way the match could deliver on the hype. Well, it surpassed the hype. Blew the hype to smithereens. Action, excitement, stars, late drama, Zlatan.
Everything about the match screams instant classic. Carlos Vela scored two stunning world-class goals as an afterthought. The theatre on the field and in the stands was unlike anything soccer fans in Southern California have ever seen. Only once before in league history has a team come back from three goals down to win a regular season matchup, and it happened again in one of the most anticipated games EVER as the original LA club scored four unanswered goals in the final 30 minutes. Zlatan has a debut for the ages, launching a 45-yard rocket before nabbing the game-winner in stoppage time.
And this is up for debate? Not around these parts.
The closest you can get to El Trafico was the great 2007 LA Galaxy New York Red Bulls spectacle at Giants Stadium. That game may have checked all the boxes, but it was also very much a MLS 1.0 affair. A majority of the people were there to see Beckham. The goals were good, but not great, and while the match was fiercely competitive, it also had the airy feel of an exhibition.
After the match, a number of journalists have openly remarked how this game has injected fresh optimism into their jaded souls. I have to admit, El Trafico made me feel like a kid again. You don’t get that from just any match, even those we would define as classics.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch the game again.