LOS ANGELES (AP) — A rivalry game was exactly what Los Angeles FC needed to snap out of its small funk in time for the biggest games of the MLS season.
Denis Bouanga broke a tie with his second goal in the 75th minute and LAFC rallied for a 4-2 victory over the LA Galaxy on Saturday night in another thrilling edition of El Tráfico.
Bouanga had another standout game against LAFC's archrivals, scoring on a header in the first half before pouncing on Chris Mavinga's giveaway for the go-ahead goal. Timothy Tillman added an insurance goal on the break in the 84th minute for the defending MLS champions, who snapped their three-game skid and moved up to second place in the Western Conference standings.
“I think it was clear from Minute 1 who was winning this game tonight,” LAFC coach Steve Cherundolo said. “I think we were the better team, had better chances. ... When it's 2-2, it's always a little different, but we still felt very good about where we were in the game, and that we always had the ability to score a goal.”
Just six matches are left in LAFC's regular season, starting with a visit to conference-leading St. Louis on Wednesday night.
LAFC goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau earned the victory in his long-awaited season debut, getting his first game action since breaking his leg in the MLS Cup final. Ryan Hollingshead also scored, but LAFC leaned heavily on Bouanga, the talented striker who hadn't scored since July 8.
“We knew it was really important to win this game the right way,” Bouanga said.
Billy Sharp scored an early goal and Maya Yoshida got the tying goal early in the second half for the 13th-place Galaxy, who took their first defeat since July despite putting up a solid fight in front of another raucous crowd.
The Los Angeles area's two MLS teams split their four matchups in 2023, with the Galaxy winning 2-1 at the Rose Bowl on July 4 in front of an MLS-record 82,110 fans.
Crépeau became an LAFC hero last November when the Canadian keeper broke his leg while stopping a challenge from Philadelphia late in regulation extra time. Backup John McCarthy made two saves in the title-deciding shootout and won the game's MVP award before becoming LAFC's solid starter this season, but Crépeau is finally back 10 1/2 months after his injury.
“It was a long road, I'll tell you that,” Crépeau said. “Lots of ups, lots of downs during these 10 months-ish, 300 days-ish. It's been quite a ride, but physically and mentally, I felt really good out there. It was great feeling to be out with my teammates and to compete.”
Jonathan Bond made several big saves for the Galaxy, but was left with little chance on three of LAFC's four goals.
The rivals traded goals a minute apart in the first half. Bouanga rose on the break and headed home an excellent pass from Diego Palacios, but Sharp answered moments later with an artful spinning shot for the longtime Sheffield forward's third goal in only five games with the Galaxy. Sharp raised a finger to his lips while staring down the 3252, LAFC's vociferous fan group on the stadium's north end.
Eight minutes later, Carlos Vela got the ball to an unmarked Hollingshead, who ripped a shot from above the penalty arc for his fourth goal.
Yoshida tied it in the 59th minute for the Galaxy, heading home Tyler Boyd's own header in the box for the Japanese defender's first goal in five games with his new club.
But Bouanga capitalized when Mavinga hit a back pass too softly, slipping around Bond and scoring his 14th goal of the season.
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