Zlatan Ibrahimovic Turned El Tráfico into a Legend

You won’t believe what Zlatan did in the first El Tráfico
Los Angeles Galaxy v Los Angeles FC - Western Conference Semifinals
Los Angeles Galaxy v Los Angeles FC - Western Conference Semifinals / Shaun Clark/GettyImages

The rivalry between LA Galaxy and LAFC, known as El Tráfico, has already delivered moments that went down in history. And, without a doubt, the name that stands out the most when we talk about this classic is Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Ah, Zlatan! The giant Swede, full of bravado and incredible feats, made his debut for the Galaxy on March 31, 2018, and from that moment on, nothing was ever the same.

To understand the impact of this player, we need to go back in time and remember that first match. It was just another spring afternoon, and fans were expecting a good game, but no one could have imagined the spectacle that was about to begin. Zlatan, in all his majesty, entered the field in the second half and, within minutes, redefined the concept of an impossible goal.

Follow MLS Multiplex on X (Twitter).

Benny Feilhaber, former LAFC midfielder, and Daniel Steres, then LA Galaxy defender and now with Houston Dynamo FC, recently reminisced about their impressions of that epic game. In a recent episode of the podcast "Offside with Taylor Twellman," they shared the emotions and details that made that day unforgettable.

"This guy is 45 yards from the goal, and the minute you see him getting ready to shoot, you think, where's our goalkeeper? Where's Tyler Miller?" recalls Feilhaber. Tyler Miller, the unlucky LAFC goalkeeper, was out of position, and Zlatan, with confidence bordering on arrogance, decided to take a chance. For any other player, the odds of scoring would be minimal, but for Zlatan, it was almost a certainty. When Ibrahimovic’s foot met the ball, time stood still. Everyone knew: it was a goal.

Dignity Health Sports Park erupted into chaos and joy. Zlatan tore off his shirt and was embraced by teammates he barely knew. That goal wasn't just a point on the scoreboard; it was a statement: "I have arrived, and nothing will be the same." And indeed, nothing was the same.

Daniel Steres, who assisted that legendary goal, fondly and proudly remembers that moment. "It was the greatest assist in MLS history, right?" jokes Steres, but with a hint of truth. He was at an emotional low, thinking it would be a terrible defeat. But in just thirty minutes, everything changed.

That first El Tráfico set a standard. Every game between Galaxy and LAFC since then has been a fierce battle. The rivalry has intensified, regardless of the teams' standings or recent form. As Feilhaber said, "every time there's a game between Galaxy and LAFC, no matter where they are on the table, you know there will be goals and lots of excitement."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the artist who painted the first great masterpiece of this classic, and since then, others have followed his example, adding layers and layers of emotion to this rivalry. So, the next time you hear about a game between LA Galaxy and LAFC, remember this epic beginning.