CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his 499th career goal in the first half, and Carlos Vela converted a penalty early in the second half of the LA Galaxy’s 1-1 draw with LAFC on Friday night in the third edition of the new rivalry game dubbed El Trafico.
Ibrahimovic reached the precipice of the 500-goal milestone crossed only by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo among active players, and the Galaxy hung on late to finish their first regular-season series against their expansion rivals with one victory and two draws.
Both Los Angeles clubs’ biggest stars scored in front of a sellout crowd of 27,068 packing StubHub Center for what has already become one of Major League Soccer’s best derbies. Three sections full of LAFC supporters were already singing and chanting nearly two hours before kickoff, and they never stopped while separated from the Galaxy faithful by cordons of security guards in the aisles.
Ibrahimovic put the Galaxy ahead in the 15th minute when he chested down a sharp cross from Ola Kamara and poked it toward goal. The referee initially thought LAFC defender Danilo Silva had managed to clear it off the line, but video review confirmed the score.
With his 16th goal in 20 appearances for the Galaxy, Ibrahimovic reached the brink of his 500th career goal for club and country. Only Messi and Ronaldo have more than the Swedish superstar who has been outstanding since his arrival in Southern California five months ago.
Vela drew his penalty when Galaxy defender Perry Kitchen slid into his leg deep in the box. Vela then put a high shot well past David Bingham in the 51st minute for his ninth goal in 20 games with the expansion club.
Although both teams missed on thrilling late scoring chances in their final regular-season meeting of LAFC’s inaugural year, the third edition of this derby seemed less freewheeling and more mean-tempered than the previous two. That’s no surprise: Both teams are contending for playoff berths deep in the dwindling regular season.
LAFC (12-7-7) earned the 43rd point of its debut season to push the club past Sporting Kansas City into second place in the Western Conference standings. The Galaxy (10-9-8) pulled into a fourth-place tie in the West with their 38th point despite playing without injured stars Romain Alessandrini and Giovani Dos Santos.
The short-handed Galaxy couldn’t mount a third straight theatrical comeback in this rivalry game, instead barely surviving golden late chances for LAFC’s Benny Feilhaber, Latif Blessing and Diego Rossi.
The Galaxy rallied from three goals down to win the electrifying inaugural edition March 31, with Ibrahimovic scoring the tying and winning goals. The Galaxy then rallied from a two-goal deficit with nine minutes left to force a draw in their first trip to Banc of California Stadium last month.
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