Riqui Puig asserts LA Galaxy's superiority over LAFC due to stars and history

The Galaxy will welcome LAFC to Pasadena's iconic Rose Bowl for the second edition of the El Tráfico rivalry
On Thursday, July 4th, the LA Galaxy will welcome Los Angeles FC to the historic Rose Bowl in Pasadena for the second encounter in the El Tráfico rivalry's history.
On Thursday, July 4th, the LA Galaxy will welcome Los Angeles FC to the historic Rose Bowl in Pasadena for the second encounter in the El Tráfico rivalry's history. / Eakin Howard/GettyImages

On Thursday, July 4th, LA Galaxy will host Los Angeles FC at the iconic Rose Bowl in Pasadena for the second time in the history of the El Tráfico rivalry. This highly anticipated match marks the 23rd edition of one of Major League Soccer's fiercest rivalries. LA Galaxy leads the series with nine victories, eight losses, and five draws across all competitions.

One player who has consistently shone in El Tráfico is Riqui Puig. The LA Galaxy midfielder has a knack for making a significant impact in these high-stakes matches. Puig famously drew the ire of LAFC fans last year during the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup by scoring in a 2-0 victory and celebrating by removing his shirt and flaunting it to the Black & Gold supporters at BMO Stadium.

Puig further cemented his status as a thorn in LAFC’s side when he scored the decisive goal in a 2-1 victory at the Rose Bowl on July 4th, 2023. Despite being seen as a villain by LAFC fans, Puig remains unfazed and focused on winning.

On being perceived as a villain by LAFC fans:

"The truth is, I don't care what they think. When I play against them, I have a great time, I enjoy it, and I think it's a beautiful rivalry. I believe the Galaxy is always superior because of our stars and history. It's always a pleasure to play against LAFC because it's a great match and the atmosphere is fantastic," Puig commented.

On playing against LAFC at the Rose Bowl:

"There are few matches where you feel the pressure from the fans, like a big game in Europe, and this should happen every year. It's an incredible experience for us, and it's good for the young players to feel this pressure and gain rhythm," Puig added.

The 24-year-old recently recovered from a groin injury that sidelined him for three games, making his comeback in LA Galaxy's 3-0 victory over San Jose Earthquakes last weekend. Puig has been a crucial player for head coach Greg Vanney, tallying six goals and five assists so far this season.

READ MORE: LA Galaxy vs LAFC, a tale of two city football clubs

On his injury and recovery:

"It was difficult for me, but I'm happy to be back because I had a five-centimeter tear in my groin. I had to go to Spain to see a trusted doctor who helped me. Now I'm fully recovered, and I hope we win the battle because it's important to regain the top of the conference," Puig said after Tuesday's training session.

On the team's form and aspirations:

"When you have a good team, it doesn't matter if a player is unavailable; they keep playing well. I think the team stepped up in the last three games without me, and if we want to win the MLS Cup, that's crucial. Every player marks this match on the calendar each season because it's one of our best. Last year's atmosphere was incredible, and we want to replicate that."

"I believe the team, considering our position in the standings, is at a very high level. We are very happy, having an incredible season, and playing very good football. We are well-prepared for this battle on Thursday. The group is very strong this year, and we have high aspirations. Last year, we were much lower, yet we won the match."

"This year, the level is much more equal, and we have the same chances of winning the three points, making the game more competitive. The signings have been crucial and have helped us take a step forward. Our offensive numbers are evident, and our defense has also improved significantly. We didn't have that last year," concluded Puig.