Major League Soccer

Vela leads LAFC to historic 3-2 road win over Galaxy

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)


AP Sports Writer

CARSON, Calif. (AP) The LA Galaxy fans who stayed away from their stadium Sunday in the ongoing boycott protest against the club's front office missed a thriller in which their struggling club put on its most encouraging performance of the season.

Those unhappy fans also missed another narrow loss for the Galaxy - and a landmark victory for the club that has firmly seized soccer supremacy in Los Angeles.

Carlos Vela had two goals and an assist and Los Angeles FC won at the Galaxy's suburban stadium for the first time, beating its archrival 3-2 on Sunday.

Ryan Hollingshead scored in the 70th minute for LAFC, which remained unbeaten in MLS play this season and 8-1-2 overall with another victory in the El Tráfico rivalry.

LAFC had been 0-6-2 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson since entering MLS, enduring a series of setbacks that began with Zlatan Ibrahimovic's incredible two-goal performance in his MLS debut for the Galaxy in LAFC's very first trip to Carson in 2018.

But Vela put his club ahead 2-1 on a penalty in the 68th minute before the defending MLS Cup champions survived a prolonged stretch of ferocious attacks by the Galaxy down the stretch to hang on.

“I feel great, because I feel like we've shown many times we were better than them,” said Vela, LAFC's first player and longtime captain. “But for some reason, any time we went here, it was crazy stuff. But in the end, playing many games against them, one will be for us. I hope after this one, we can win more often here and show every time we play against LA Galaxy that we're the team of the city.”

The rivals’ first meeting of the new year arrived with the clubs in sharply contrasting situations.

LAFC has been outstanding to open its title defense, rolling through a crowded schedule and advancing to the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League.

Meanwhile, the five-time MLS champion Galaxy have flirted with chaos.

They went winless in their first six matches amid open revolt from their supporters’ groups, who are largely staying away from matches until team president Chris Klein is removed. Before this edition of El Tráfico, a plane flew over the Galaxy’s stadium towing a banner with hashtags urging the departures of Klein and technical director Jovan Kirovski.

Despite the boycotts, the Galaxy’s home stadium was announced with a sellout of 25,174, with empty seats only glaring in Victoria Block, the standing supporters’ section. LAFC’s famously voluble supporters sang from two hours before kickoff, also chanting “We love Klein!”

“There was a lot of noise,” Galaxy defender Jalen Neal said. “The fans that came out, I thank them for their support.”

Tyler Boyd scored his first MLS goal and Mark Delgado made it close with a goal in the 85th minute, but the Galaxy (0-4-3) remained winless. The first home loss to their rivals could have been rock-bottom for the Galaxy in the latest disappointing season from a proud club that hasn't come close to reaching its historic heights in recent years.

But the players and coaches left the field increasingly confident they can emerge from a dismal stretch of play made worse by their fans' discontent.

“This has been an interesting week for everybody, but the guys' effort was fantastic,” coach Greg Vanney said. “I thought at times our performance was fantastic. I’ve never been more sure about this group’s ability to do something special this season than today.”

LAFC surged ahead midway through the second half. Shortly after Vela comfortably converted his penalty created by a foul from Séga Coulibaly, Hollingshead scored on his 32nd birthday, heading home Vela's cross for his first goal of the season.

The Galaxy pressed late, but Spanish midfielder Riqui Puig's vicious shot hit the post moments before LAFC goalkeeper John McCarthy made a fingertip deflection of an open shot by Galaxy captain Javier “Chicharito” Hernández.

Delgado eventually finished a chance, but the Galaxy couldn’t convert a handful of subsequent opportunities to tie it despite a strong attack led by Chicharito.

“We outworked them, we dominated them, but we just did the mistakes that they didn’t do,” said Hernández, who made his first start of the season. “We cannot celebrate or be happy about it, because the results haven’t happened. But the bright side is it’s just seven games that we’ve played. Today, regardless of the result, it was the best performance that we did (all year), because if LAFC is considered the best team of the league, we outplayed them.”

AP soccer: and

Updated April 16, 2023

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