If Los Angeles FC is to continue its magical season, it must finally beat the rival Los Angeles Galaxy.
In the first-ever postseason edition of "El Trafico," top-seeded LAFC takes to the playoff pitch looking to exorcise its demons over the visiting Galaxy on Thursday night in the Western Conference semifinals.
With a single-season, MLS-record 72 points, LAFC ran away with the Supporters' Shield and also posted a remarkable plus-48 goal differential while suffering just four losses during the club's second year of existence.
However, it's 0-2-3 all time against the rival Galaxy, who rode a Zlatan Ibrahimovic hat trick to a 3-2 home win over LAFC on July 19 and got a brace from the Swedish superstar when they could not hold an early 3-1 lead and settled for a 3-3 draw at Banc of California on Aug. 25.
Now, when it matters most, LAFC gets the chance to not only make its push for an MLS Cup but take out its biggest rival in the process for the first time.
"We get another crack," LAFC defender Jordan Harvey said as posted on the club's official Twitter page. "Having not won (against the Galaxy) this season. We weren't sure if we were going to get that chance. So now that we have the opportunity, we're going to take it with both hands. The guys are excited. We're ready to get back on the pitch."
It's only fitting "El Trafico" gets its time in the postseason, considering the passion supporters of both sides have for the rivalry.
"We're playing the Galaxy, we wouldn't have it any other way," LAFC defender Jordan Harvey told the club's official website. "This is exactly the route we should take and need to take. And we're looking forward to it."
The fifth-seeded Galaxy earned another shot to remain undefeated against their rival after winning 2-1 at Minnesota United FC on Sunday. Sebastian Lletget and Jonathan Dos Santos scored four minutes apart in the second half before United pulled one back late.
Knowing that LAFC was waiting for the Galaxy only added to the intensity of the playoffs.
"This is it, man," Lletget told the official website of MLS. "I'm excited and can't wait until Thursday. I think it'll be a special day. The history speaks for itself."
In addition to the teams' brief but hotly contested contests (both Galaxy wins were by one goal), there's the individual rivalry between Ibrahimovic and LAFC star Carlos Vela. The latter set the league's single-season goal mark with 34, with Ibrahimovic second at 30.
While Vela statistically had the better season, Ibrahimovic has not been shy about declaring himself the best player in MLS. He also believes the Galaxy are the better team when head-to-head. Ibrahimovic, who could be playing his final MLS contest, avoided any trash talking after Sunday's win.
"Thursday (is a) new game," Ibrahimovic said. "Keep the confidence from (Sunday). Play our game."
Vela, who scored the equalizer against the Galaxy in August, has seven goals in those five games in this series.
The winner will face Seattle or Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference final on Oct. 29.