It can be hard to believe that El Tráfico is one of the newest rivalries in American sports. There have been four meetings in two years between MLS mainstay Los Angeles Galaxy and relative newcomer Los Angeles Football Club, and in that time, it’s managed to turn itself into one of the most acrimonious and drama-filled rivalries in the entire league.
It’s the sort of thing that doesn’t quite gel with the mellow nature of southern California. Certainly some levity could be brought to the situation, and during Sunday’s matchup between the two sides, Galaxy legend Cobi Jones and comedian Andy Daly will do their best to lighten the mood.
The pair will team up to provide play-by-play during Sunday’s match for Funny or Die, which will broadcast the duo on its various channels in partnership with Heineken. Jones’ bonafides, both as a professional footballer who spent most of his career with the Galaxy and as a television analyst for the sport, are unimpeachable. As for Daly, well, the universe is all about balance, and he certainly acts as a counter-weight in this situation.
“You know what?” Daly asked after reflecting on his brief time playing the sport as a child. “This is going to be the first game of soccer I’ve ever watched. Cobi, that’s exciting.”
In the world of American footy, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a better matchup for nascent viewers. The most recent meeting between the two sides packed more storylines into two hours than anything we saw out of the final season of Game of Thrones: LAFC, led by standout forward and league MVP frontrunner Carlos Vela, was (and, in fairness, still is) the best team in the league, eager to pick up their first win against their SoCal denizens.
The issue is that the Galaxy feature Zlatan Ibrahimovic, one of the greatest goal scorers of his generation who has never been afraid to speak his mind. Ibra told ESPN that MLS was not on par with European leagues, infamously referred to himself as “a Ferrari among Fiats,” and boasted that he is “by far” better than Vela. He then scored three goals and was clearly the best player on the pitch in a 3-2 Galaxy victory, rendering the fact that Vela scored twice moot and giving him six goals in four appearances against LAFC. There was also a whole thing about the away supporters claiming they had their tickets canceled, so they showed up wearing camo.
There’s a whole lot of bad blood at such an early juncture that Jones agrees with the assessment that the league has caught “lightning in a bottle.” Even Daly can’t help but sound excited as he’s brought up to speed on the acrimony between the sides, even if he compares his ignorance about the sport to the galaxy, calling it “vast” and saying “it knows no end.”
But at the end of the day, Jones and Daly are coming together on Sunday to try and make people laugh. Sports are merely an interruption of the chaos that is everyday life, and oftentimes those little moments where people can forget about everything and just laugh are the ones that get looked upon most fondly. Amid the intensity of this rivalry, Jones is quick to mention that the hard feelings that are forged in the fires of competition usually stay on the field.
“I think it’s important to bring a little bit of levity to it because one thing that we have to remember is once these players step off the field, everybody’s friends,” Jones said. “Everyone will have a drink together. Everyone will hang out with each other. But when you’re on the field during that rivalry part, you know, that’s where the intensity comes in. So if we can bring a little levity to it where people can actually have a little laugh and kind of remember that. I think it’s important. We don’t want to get too serious about too many things in life. This is sports, after all.”
They won’t be alone in trying to accomplish this. The pair will be joined by special guests throughout the broadcast, and unsurprisingly, while Jones will play more of the straight man among the two, Daly — who played a broadcaster in the movie Semi-Pro — will lean on his roots in improv as his partner.
“Within the premise that gets introduced, all of the specific beats and lines and jokes and whatever else we find are all going to be improvised,” Daly says. “It’s going to be 98 percent improvised.”
Written material aside, anything can happen when a comedian is leaning that heavily on their intuition and ability to make something out of nothing. It’s not unlike soccer, where players like Ibrahimovic and Vela are capable of producing moments of magic that are unparalleled among most of their peers in MLS.
To close, we asked Daly about one of his more famous characters and what they’d think of what’s gone on in the last year or two between these two sides. In the spirit of Review, Daly said the show’s main character, life reviewer Forrest MacNeil, would give LAFC-Galaxy high marks. It’s not quite on par with some of MacNeil’s best ratings, like eating 30 pancakes or going into space, but there’s a good reason for it.
“As rivalries go,” Daly says. “This one sounds like a solid four and a half stars with holding the last half star to see how this game turns out.”