CARSON, Calif. -- Zlatan Ibrahimovic backed up his pre-match talk with a hat trick as the LA Galaxy beat LAFC 3-2 in a riveting end-to-end El Trafico derby here on Friday night.
Following the match, Ibrahimovic said: "I think the [best player talk] motivated them more, because I'm always motivated. I always go in to [every game] to do my best and to help my teammates. Today the outcome was good and we won the game."
It didn't take long for the fireworks to start, as a poor giveaway from the Galaxy's Favio Alvarez allowed Adama Diomande to play Vela into the area and he was hauled down by David Bingham with the referee pointing right to the spot.
Vela sent Bingham the wrong way with his penalty kick, but the hosts were level soon after thanks to an incredible individual effort from Ibrahimovic, who beat his defender with his first touch and smashed home a volley from 18 yards out.
LAFC's Tyler Miller kept the score level at the 30-minute mark with an impressive fingertip save from Rolf Feltscher's bullet header after some neat build-up play from the Galaxy and the teams went into the break locked in a 1-1 draw after a thrilling first half.
"When you play against a rival like that, with a full stadium, the atmosphere is nice," Ibrahimovic said. "I get pumped, I get adrenaline. This is considered to be the biggest game in the league, so the biggest job is to show up in the biggest game."
And show up he did in the second half, as Ibra struck again 11 minutes after the restart, out-jumping Jordan Harvey and heading in the go-ahead goal from Diego Polenta's perfectly placed back-post cross.
The former Sweden international produced another moment of brilliance in the 70th minute, picking up a nice flicked-on heel pass from Alvarez, cutting to his left and blasting a shot past Miller to complete his hat trick and put the game away for the Galaxy.
"I mean in the U.S. the regular season is not important, according to everybody, only the playoffs," he said. "And then when the playoffs come I have to put in playoff mode, but the difference with me and them is that I have playoff mode every day."
Vela added another goal in second-half stoppage time to take his league-leading goals total to 21. However, it was too little too late for the visiting side as the Galaxy saw out the result to go back into second place ahead of the Seattle Sounders, but still nine points behind Western Conference leading LAFC.