LAFC beats Galaxy 2-1 before 70,076 at Rose Bowl to take over Western Conference lead

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Kei Kamara and Denis Bouanga scored four minutes apart late in the first half, and Los Angeles Football Club beat the LA Galaxy 2-1 on Thursday night in front of 70,076 at the Rose Bowl in a matchup of the top two teams in the Western Conference.

It was the second-largest crowd in MLS this season, surpassed only by the 72,610 for Inter Miami’s 3-2 victory over Sporting Kansas City on April 13 at Arrowhead Stadium.

Last year’s game drew an MLS-record 82,110 to the Rose Bowl, which was the Galaxy’s home for their first seven seasons (1996-2002).

Gabriel Pec scored for the Galaxy, who saw their four-game winning streak snapped. LA (11-4-7) and Real Salt Lake both have 40 points, but RSL is in second place due to a better goal differential.

LAFC is unbeaten in its last 10 MLS matches (9-0-1) to move into sole possession of first place in the Western Conference with 43 points (13-4-4).

“From the outside looking in, it looked like the Galaxy players had something to lose,” LAFC coach Steve Cherundolo said. “That’s a different burden. We dealt with it better in the first half.”

Galaxy goalkeeper John McCarthy made saves on shots by Mateusz Bogusz and Ilie Sánchez in the 39th minute before LAFC converted one minute later on Kamara’s header off a corner kick by Bogusz.

It was Kamara’s 147th regular-season goal in MLS, second in league history. Bogusz has had a goal or assist in 10 straight games.

Kamara nearly scored again on a header in the 77th minute, but McCarthy made a diving stop to keep it within one goal.

“He’s incredible. When the service is right, it is kind of unstoppable,” LAFC defender Aaron Long said about Kamara. “When he gets that running head start and the jump, no one is going to be able to get the jump on him. Everyone knows how good he is in the air.”

Bouanga scored his 14th goal of the season in the 44th minute when he converted a penalty shot. LAFC was awarded the penalty shot when video review confirmed Galaxy defender Julian Aude tripped Eduard Altuesta just inside the penalty area.

“I thought we were very good in the first half. We executed our game plan perfectly,” Cherundolo said. “In the second half we were just lacking a little bit of control. We saw in the 72nd minute they (Galaxy) ran out of gas.”

The Galaxy got on the board in the 56th minute when Pec scored from 8 yards out. Miki Yamade was able to get past four LAFC defenders and maintain possession before making the short pass to Pec.

“We had three shots in the first half, all of them from 25 yards away. It was just so passive. You’re not going to win, especially against good teams in doing that,” Galaxy coach Greg Vanney said. “In the second half we were more of a proactive team with a purpose and got some goal scoring chances.”

After 23 editions of El Tráfico, the series is even at 9-9-5. LAFC has a 49-48 advantage in goals.

With MLS expanding to 30 teams next season, it is likely this could be the final July 4 El Tráfico at the Rose Bowl since the Galaxy and LAFC would likely only play two times in the regular season instead of three. Vanney though is hoping somehow the holiday matchup can continue.

“It feels like a potential final or like something a little more special. In a 34-game season, it’s hard to find those types of moments and when you can I think you take advantage of them,” he said. “I think it benefits the players in the end when the games are on the line and they do feel big because this is a moment they went through. You can’t replicate something like this every weekend.”



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