LAFC makes progress in draw with Galaxy in El Tráfico, but not enough

The Galaxy's Kévin Cabral, left, celebrates his game-tying goal against LAFC at Banc of California Stadium on Aug. 28, 2021.

The Galaxy’s Kévin Cabral, left, celebrates his tying goal in the 86th minute against LAFC at Banc of California Stadium. Teammate Niko Hamalainen is at right. The teams played to a 3-3 draw. (Shaun Clark / Getty Images)

Nobody won. Nobody lost.

That seemed an appropriate conclusion to a torrid 90 minutes in which LAFC and the Galaxy took 35 shots, scored six goals and erased five deficits between them before eventually settling for a 3-3 draw.

Perhaps settling is the wrong word though because Saturday’s result was hard-earned. In a game that marked the 12th meeting between the two neighborhood rivals, it was also one of the best.

In fact the Galaxy’s Dejan Joveljic, one of nine starters who was playing in his first El Tráfico, didn’t want it to end — and only partly because he scored his first two MLS goals in the game.

“Amazing,” he said. “This is something different. The fans are crazy.”

LAFC coach Bob Bradley saw things differently. His team was minutes away from its first win since mid-July when the Galaxy’s Kévin Cabral scored in the 86th minute, marking the fourth time in eight games that LAFC has lost points on a goal in the final four minutes or stoppage time.

“That’s a tough game to tie. Feels like a loss,” he said. “It’s also especially tough because I thought there are a lot of positives. I loved our response after going down. I thought that generally in terms of just pushing a game, everybody engaged in a good way.

“But you can’t call it a step forward to end a game like that.”

The Galaxy's Dejan Joveljic, right, battles LAFC's Eduard Atuesta on Aug. 28, 2021.The Galaxy's Dejan Joveljic, right, battles LAFC's Eduard Atuesta on Aug. 28, 2021.

The Galaxy’s Dejan Joveljic, right, battles LAFC’s Eduard Atuesta on Saturday. Joveljic scored twice in the match. (Shaun Clark / Getty Images)

You can call it progress, though, because the draw ended a franchise-worst four-game losing streak even as it extended a winless streak to a franchise-worst eight games.

The three goals were the most LAFC has scored in a game this season, matching its total from the rest of August combined. But the three goals were the second-most Bradley’s team has allowed in a game this year.

Joveljic opened the scoring in the 20th minute with some help from LAFC center back Jesús Murillo, who stepped in front of a long cross from Julian Araujo and deflected it off a short hop toward the goal, allowing Joveljic to run onto the loose ball and chip it in on a bounce.

Cristian Arango, who joined LAFC from Colombia’s Millonarios earlier this month, matched that just before the intermission, scoring his first MLS goal on a penalty kick, setting up a back-and-forth second half in which neither team led for more than 20 minutes.

Brian Rodríguez put LAFC in front twice with his first two goals of the season, in the 58th minute and again eight minutes later. Both times the Galaxy came back, with Joveljic erasing the first lead and Cabral the second.

After his tying goal in the 64th minute, Joveljic, playing in just his fourth MLS game, ripped off his jersey and appeared to take a seat on the small concrete wall that separates the field from the south grandstand, taunting the LAFC fans and drawing cheers from the Galaxy supporters.

“I don’t know why I did that,” he said. “It comes in the moment, you know?”

For the Galaxy the draw ended a season-long two-game losing streak, but it also left them winless in three straight, matching a season worst. That, however, was lost in the excitement of the rivalry.

“These are the games that I’ve grown up wanting to play in,” said Araujo, who set up all three Galaxy goals, getting assists on the final two. “This is why we play football. The adrenaline was there the whole 90 minutes.”

Bradley didn’t necessarily see it that way.

“In a lot of the games, the two teams get after each other, push the limits. The fans are into it, and then you see a really good match. So this is certainly another one,” he said of the rivalry.

But he had a different take on the result.

“This isn’t the step we wanted,” he said. “But there’s positives.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.