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Tonight's El Tráfico feels like the biggest MLS rivalry game ever

Los Angeles Football Club and the LA Galaxy will meet for the fourth time this season in Thursday night's Western Conference semifinal, but the dynamics are considerably different than their last match in early July.

Regular season West champions LAFC have added European stars like attacker Gareth Bale and defender Giorgio Chielini, as well as more under-the-radar additions up front in Cristian Tello and Denis Bouanga.

The fourth-seeded Galaxy have shored up the center of their formation with center back Martín Cáceres, holding midfielder Gastón Brugman and attacking midfielder Riqui Puig brought in.

Thursday's MLS Cup Playoffs clash at Banc of California Stadium might not feel as familiar as you'd expect between the crosstown El Tráfico rivals.

"History will certainly play a part, just in terms of the psyche," said Galaxy manager Greg Vanney after his team earned a 1-0 win over Nashville in the first round Saturday. "But I think it's going to be a super competitive one. There won't be an inch on the field that anybody's willing to give away. I think both teams have gained some experience since the last time we played and have added pieces that make each of us better."

The Galaxy have the better of the history, winning two of their three meetings and holding a 6-3-5 all-time regular season record in the series.

The teams split their regular season meetings, and the Galaxy won a U.S. Open Cup match on the road. But LAFC, which received a first-round bye, got the better of the teams' only prior playoff meeting, a 5-3 thriller in 2019 at the same stage of the playoffs. LAFC won the Supporters' Shield in 2019. But that group fell short of the MLS Cup final, losing 3-1 at home to the eventual champion Seattle Sounders in the West finals.

Despite the Galaxy's own stars — most notably leading scorer Javier "Chicharito" Hernández, who has enjoyed his best MLS season with 18 goals — the pressure is probably on LAFC again. This time, LAFC captain Carlos Vela believes the squad is better built to handle it.

"This time I think we have more experience in the group, we have more depth," Vela said this week. "So I think everybody is a little more fresh because we rotate a lot. And everybody feels a part of this group, feels important in this group."

How to Watch LAFC vs LA Galaxy

Date: Thursday, Oct. 20 | Time: 10 p.m. ET | Location: Banc of California Stadium

TV: FS1, FOX Deportes | Stream: FOX Sports, FuboTV, Sling TV, Vidgo 

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