Pasadena – On a historic night for MLS and soccer in the United States, the Los Angeles Galaxy earned El Tráfico ecstasy with a 2-1 statement win over their city rivals, LAFC, on Tuesday, July 4, 2023, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Almost 83,000 people were treated to an affirmation of soccer in LA as the teams made up a game originally scheduled for February canceled due to inclement weather.
It was a blessing in disguise, with the July 4th holiday making it possible to break the MLS single-game attendance record set by the Galaxy last year. It also allowed the boycotting supporters, who carried out a protest lasting months that resulted in Galaxy President Chris Klein being fired, to find their way back to the stands.
But the most crucial part of this evening was the marker the Galaxy laid down. With the world watching, they went toe to toe with the reigning champs, bettered, and humbled them. It was a vindication of their claims of “being the better team” in the previous fixture’s 3-2 reversal and just might be “the” moment the Galaxy needed to finally jumpstart their season.
LA Galaxy Post Match
LA IS OURS. pic.twitter.com/omUOVaiEpZ
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) July 5, 2023
Riqui Lets It Rip
LA Galaxy Attacking Midfielder Riqui Puig played like he had a point to prove. Perhaps he did. Puig was criticized after the Galaxy’s 2-0 win over LAFC’s “B” team in the U.S. Open Cup for celebrating his goal with an outstretched jersey in front of the LAFC home support. After that match, Giorgio Chiellini called Puig a Payaso (clown) in an attempt at what he called “defending our kids,” as the Italian took issue with Puig celebrating his goal on what Chiellini considers LAFC’s youth. Puig should only celebrate like that against the LAFC first team if he scored, he added.
Be careful what you wish for Giorgio. Puig was electric, dynamic, and every other colorful adjective that won’t do justice to describe his performance. Galaxy Head Coach Greg Vanney thinks it might’ve been Puig’s best performance in a Galaxy shirt.
“Maybe. Given the moment. Given the stadium. The amount of people. The spectacle that it was tonight. He was outstanding. He just plays at a different speed. When he picks up the ball and shifts and changes direction and accelerates through the lines. He just… it’s a different speed.”
Why Riqui Puig Stood Out in El Tráfico
Puig showed that different speed for the Galaxy’s first goal. After turning away from trouble and slicing into the midfield, Puif found Tyler Boyd on the left wing. Boyd turned and unleashed a wicked right-footed curler that LAFC Goalkeeper John McCarthy could do nothing about for the 1-0 Galaxy lead. And as impressive as his distribution was, his game-winning goal was pure will and awe-inspiring. With the game in the balance at 1-1, Puig sprinted the length of the field. He outran Erik Dueñas and Malik Tillman to get to Boyd’s cross first, where he was just able to poke it home past McCarthy for the 2-1 Galaxy lead and eventual win.
“I’m a player that likes to play these big games with a lot of pressure and a lot of fans in the stands and I think we showed today what we are capable of, and I love that pressure,” Puig said post-match with a smile. Through smiles, he also claimed he stopped himself from recreating his celebration again after canceling out Ilie Sanchez’s tying goal.
When Puig plays like this, he cannot be stopped. More importantly, the Galaxy is at its best.
Boyd, the LAFC Killer
While Puig can be credited with scoring the game-winner, Boyd was the one who served it on a platter. Add in an impressive opening goal, his third in three games against LAFC, and it’s hard not to argue with Boyd not being a thorn in the Black and Gold’s side.
Impressively, all of these goals have been exceptional. But his most important contribution in this match was linking up with Puig via Douglas Costa, who had another impressive performance. In previous matches, Boyd’s final delivery had been lacking. Not so on this cross. It allowed Puig to put the gentlest of touches on it to tap home. He spoke about the blossoming understanding between himself and Puig, despite crediting the “team effort.”
“I think we’re gelling together, him and I, especially today it showed. He gave me the first assist. I gave him the second, so that’s nice to make that connection.”
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 5, 2023
Is the Galaxy Back?
After a six-game unbeaten run and a memorable win over a rival, it feels like something is starting to shift back to rights in LA.
“My hope is that the joy tonight that they feel in the locker room and for each other, our effort, and for our fans, this can be that thing that puts you on another level of confidence and belief, and you can start to build off this even more,” Vanney confessed.
Galaxy fans everywhere are hoping, too!
— Galaxy Fan Talk (@LAGalaxyFanTalk) July 5, 2023
Defending the Badge – Galaxy Supporter Groups
The scenes at full time. No words.
— anandagalaxiana (@anandagalaxiana) July 5, 2023
You were gorgeous LA Galaxy fans. There was a small snafu with your TIFO at the beginning of the match, which could have been the most onerous of omens. Instead, Galaxy supporters went off! From before the first whistle, you were in fine voice and spirit. And you kept it up until the final player had left the field and moved the party into the parking lot. It’s a far cry from the dark old days of the supporter-led “Klein Out” protest. You came together as one and you were felt worldwide! It’s little wonder that LA Galaxy staff and players came over to celebrate with you. This victory is as much yours as anyone who was on the field. Enjoy it!
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