Emmanuel Boateng could be on the brink of taking the next step.
Carson, CA — LA Galaxy midfielder Emmanuel Boateng didn’t hold back when reporters asked him what he thought of his performance in his club’s 2-1 win over the Portland Timbers on Sunday night at StubHub Center.
“I thought I was fresh today,” he said. “And I was able to get behind my man most of the time. Two of the goals kind of started from runs that I made and somebody finished off in the end. I felt good about that part.
“Again, the only part is to try to score myself when I get in those positions.”
Boateng, a diminutive 24-year old, found himself involved in a couple of dangerous chances that could have seen the Galaxy extend their lead in a tight game.
The first one occurred in the 50th minute when midfielder Romain Alessandrini played a looping cross directly into the path of Boateng. His first touch was immaculate — Stu Holden, handling the commentary for the Fox Sports 1 broadcast, said as much — but his shot went off the top of his foot and deep into the bleachers behind the Portland net.
He got two more chances 24 minutes later. The first was a combination between Galaxy defender Rolf Feltscher and midfielders Chris Pontius and Sebastian Lletget. Lletget ran onto a heel flick pass from Pontius and immediately raised his head to find Boateng open in the penalty area. His left-footed shot was blocked by the Timbers’ Zarek Valentin but the deflection kept the play alive.
Pontius then sent a pass to Feltscher, whose cross was deflected to Boateng. He was standing alone at the top of the penalty area and, with no defenders within five yards, he sent the ball over the crossbar from 14 yards.
“Ema (Boateng) was dangerous, he’s fantastic with his speed,” Galaxy head coach Sigi Schmid said after the game. “We’ve been asking him to use his speed more to take people on, to make runs with and without the ball to get behind and I think today he showed that.”
Boateng repeatedly showed good use of his impressive speed. He dropped his shoulder multiple times, causing problems in coverage from the Timbers’ Alvas Powell, among others. Powell, in fact, resorted to fouling Boateng on multiple occasions and should have been shown a yellow card for stopping promising attacks.
“The final stage for Ema (Boateng) is to finish what he starts,” Schmid explained. “So, if he could finish what he starts, he probably wouldn’t be playing for us anymore. He’d be playing in Europe.
“But you know, we need him to do that. His willingness to come back and help defend, he made a couple of good defensive plays, but it’s also his willingness to now run without the ball.
“I think his game has taken another jump,” Schmid continued. “It’s good.”
There always will be an argument of whether Boateng should start or come off the bench. His ability to play a lot of minutes and still be effective in the latter stages of matches makes coaches reluctant to pull him off the field. But his overall work rate and explosive speed may be better suited for a substitute role in which he would be matched against defenders with tired legs.
But if Boateng could continue to be dangerous and finish off chances, Schmid may have no choice but to keep him on the field. Galaxy fans would demand it.
Boateng said he knows he has to get better at putting the ball in the back of the net. In nearly 4,000 minutes in MLS, he’s scored only six times, including four last season.
Schmid’s comments that Boateng could be playing in Europe if he improved his finishing made the 5-foot-6 Ghananian stand just a little bit taller after Sunday’s season-opening victory.
“That’s high praise from him,” Boateng said. “Hopefully I can keep on playing like that and create more opportunities for my team.”