American Football

If Zlatan is leaving MLS, he’s not going quietly

Los Angeles Football Club beat the LA Galaxy 5-3 to advance to the Western Conference Final of the MLS Cup Playoffs on Thursday in front of a raucous home crowd who chanted and banged drums well beyond the final whistle. Follow @cnnsport LAFC's Mexican star Carlos Vela continued his dominant form, scoring the club's first two goals and assisting on the third. Norwegian teammate Adama Diomande chipped in the fourth and fifth goals to seal the win. "All the games (in the derby) have been on fire, and I'm just happy to win that match," Diomande said. "It's been ghosting us for a long time, but now when it really mattered we were up for it … everyone was behind us to be the best team in Los Angeles."It was LAFC's first-ever victory over their heated rivals in six tries. Separated by just 11 miles of congested highway, the derby became known as "El Trafico" shortly after LAFC kicked off its inaugural season last year. LAFC's veteran coach Bob Bradley, fresh off his second MLS Coach of the Year award, gave credit to his players for not backing down after squandering the two-goal lead early. "We all knew that it was our time. To a man everybody said great, we want the Galaxy; it had to be the Galaxy," said Bradley, who in his four decades of coaching has helmed the US and Egyptian national squads as well as Swansea City.Zlatan Ibrahimović — who has fanned the flames of El Trafico since his first MLS match — scored the tying goal in the 55th minute and notched an assist in what may have been his final match for the Galaxy. As the Swede exited the pitch after the final whistle he grabbed his crotch in response to taunts from an LAFC fan.Though he played brilliantly in his two seasons in Los Angeles, Ibrahimović is on an expiring contract, and has reportedly attracted interest from Italian club Napoli. "It could be, let's see what happens" he said of the possibility of leaving the Galaxy. The outspoken Swede, who has declared himself as the best player in the league "by far," could not resist a dig at his opponents on the way out: "(If I stay) then MLS is good, because the whole world will watch it. If I don't stay, nobody will remember what MLS is."READ: MLS reverses ban of an anti-Nazi symbol at soccer matches

'El Trafico' history

Ibrahimovic made his Galaxy debut in the first-ever meeting between the clubs in March, 2018, coming on in the 71st minute with his team down 3-2. He quickly tied the match with a long-range wonder goal, then sealed the win with a header in extra-time. "I needed a moment like that," Ibrahimović told CNN earlier this year of his first strike. "At that moment I said I still (have something) to prove. It's not over. Scoring that goal is exactly the answer I wanted: I was alive." But comparisons to Vela only irked Ibrahimović, who would remember his counterpart as a bit player at Arsenal and a fixture at Real Sociedad whle he was collecting trophies at Barcelona, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain.Asked to compare himself to Vela earlier this year, Ibrahimović scoffed, "He's playing in MLS and he's in his prime. Where was I at 29? Big difference." No matter that Vela was on his way to completing the greatest individual effort over a season in MLS history, netting a record 34 goals and a marking a combined goals-assist record of 49. At 38 and a step off his prime, Ibrahimović tallied his own wonder season, finishing with a club record 30 goals. In July, his LAFC beef extended further after he elbowed defender Mohamed El-Munir, causing a facial fracture that required surgery, before having words with goalkeeper coach Zak Abdel. "Please do not offend me," the Swede added after that match when asked again about Vela. "I don't need to prove nothing … I have a lot of respect for Vela, he's a good player, but you did one mistake, you compared him with me, that was your biggest mistake."Vela, who is mostly soft spoken, weighed in shortly after. "Look, to compare me to Zlatan overall is an insult to him," he said. "But right now, in terms of stats and regardless of age. I'm better than Zlatan."Ibrahimovic (in white) admitted this could be his last match in the MLS.  The striker is out of contract with the LA Galaxy, following the team's season-ending loss to LAFC. READ: The incredible rise of Atlanta United

The rise of the 3252

In just its second year, LAFC has proved to be a model of success in terms of wins and popularity. Last month the club secured its first major trophy, lifting the 2019 Supporter's Shield for the highest point total in the regular season, the MLS's version of winning the league. Its 72 points was an MLS record, besting the 71 points achieved by the New York Red Bulls last season. LAFC's ownership consortium may provide a clue of how that success developed. Spotted at the match hunched together were comedian Will Ferrell, LA Lakers legend Magic Johnson and motivational speaker Tony Robbins — all of whom are listed among the shareholder of the club, along with Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai and Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan. The North Stand at LAFC displays a banner depicting star forward Carlos Vela as Indiana Jones lifting the recently won MLS Supporter's Sheild. Bradley will enjoy home fiRead More – Source