The LA Galaxy don’t like playing at Standford Stadium. Headed into the seventh meeting at the college stadium, the Galaxy were 1-4-1 all-time against the San Jose Earthquakes at their “home away from home.” So despite the Earthquakes (2-9-6) only earning two wins on the season — both to Minnesota United — the Galaxy knew that it would be a difficult environment — for most players, that is.
“Listen, I play in front of 90,000. This is too small a crowd for me. I’m used to bigger crowds,” Zlatan Ibrahimovic joked with reporters after the Galaxy’s 3-3 draw in front of over 50,000 people.
A draw that saw the Galaxy (6-7-3) take a 3-1 lead and score the games first goal after just 58-seconds of play but fail to collect all three points. Even if they did claim the Cali-Clasico victory on the season.
Ibrahimovic, playing as the lone striker with the Galaxy’s Ola Kamara not in the team’s lineup, received a header from Chris Pontius just seconds after kickoff and buried a right-footed laser that found it’s way past Earthquakes keeper Andrew Tarbell.
But the good start for the Galaxy would be overturned by a poor defensive effort throughout the night. An effort that was highlighted by all three of the Earthquakes’ goals with two coming from lazy challenges inside the box that lead to penalty kicks.
The first of those was easily given in the 14th-minute when a failed clearance from Bradford Jamieson IV was brought into the box by midfielder Magnus Eriksson. Jamieson then attempted to correct his mistake by challenging Eriksson but instead just stuck a wayward foot that caught the Swede instead of the ball and allowed for the easy penalty call.
Chris Wondolowski, then stepped up to take the kick only to see Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham make the initial save but bury the rebound to tie the score up.
With the score tied, the Galaxy got back on the front foot. This time with midfielder Romain Alessandrini storming forward on a run where he was eventually fouled outside the box. The Frenchman took the free kick which stood about 20 yards out from goal along the short side of the penalty box. And with a clean left-footed strike, drove the ball past the wall and curled it into the near post for a goal in the 20th-minute.
Ibrahimovic, however, wouldn’t let Alesandrini have all the fun. He would get his brace on another set-piece goal just five minutes later as his right-footed shot scurried under the wall and into the back of the net increasing the Galaxy’s lead and comfort.
“He hits a pretty heavy ball and is able to go under the wall on that one,” Galaxy head coach Sigi Schmid said of the Ibrahimovic’s set-piece strike. “So we were pleased that way.”
But with a 3-1 lead in the 25th-minute, the Galaxy failed to keep the Earthquakes out of the game before the half ended. And that would be one of their biggest mistakes.
Earthquakes midfielder, Valeri Qazaishvilli stormed through the Galaxy’s defense with a strike that fooled the four defenders and Bingham. And it saw the Earthquakes close the gap to just one goal in the 39th-minute.
The Earthquakes would finally tie the game in the 69th-minute after some terrible positioning saw Galaxy defender Michael Ciani on the wrong side of Danny Hoesen. Hoesen shielded the ball perfectly and Ciani pulled him down by the shoulder gifting the ‘Quakes another easy PK, again converted by Wondowloski, and again almost saved by Bingham.
“The key thing that happened,” Schmid commented, “is the Quakes’ second goal was the one that hurt us the most. If we could have gone in at halftime 3-1, I think we would have been okay. But giving up that second goal right before halftime is the one that probably tipped the game a little bit.”
The Galaxy remain in eighth place in the Western Conference and lost a chance to gain some valuable ground in the hunt for the playoffs. But Bingham, and the rest of the Galaxy, still see a positive of getting a road point if the overall result is disappointing.
“I don’t know if it’s fair,” he said of the result. “I think we had the better of them. We had a couple more chances that we should have finished.
“With where they’re at in the table, a tie pretty much eliminates them from the playoffs, they’re pretty much done. For us, a tie on the road is always a decent result, but when you’re up 3-1 and you end up 3-3 it’s real disappointing and we have to do better than that.”
Ibrahimovic had his own take on the Galaxy’s lack of success against the Earthquakes on the night and throughout the season, walking a razor-thin line of criticism and public shaming that was all the time very truthful.
“Too many mistakes,” he said. “It’s all about organization and the focus and the confidence, obviously. The team that does the most mistakes is often the team that loses the game. And you see the mistakes we are doing, it’s simple mistakes. Basic things that should not happen. Things that, I don’t want to be too critical, but after many games, same mistakes. You need to be critical because when it’s bad, it’s bad. We need to look in the mirror and tell ourselves we are doing bad. And when it’s good, yeah, you give less compliments. But when you are doing simple mistakes like that you should look back and not repeat the mistakes.
“But we are all human and it can happen to everybody. But hopefully, we don’t repeat it as much as we are doing it for the moment.”
While a point on the road is good, especially at a stadium the Galaxy struggle to get results in, and against a Cali-Clasico rival, it’s just another game where the club failed to close out the game. And mistakes, whether repeated, individual, or team, could cost the Galaxy a post-season berth if they can’t capitalize against the weaker opponents.
The Galaxy will get another chance to gain points against a bad opponent as last place DC United visits StubHub Center on July 4 (7:30 p.m.; SpectrumSN, SpectrumDeportes).
“Obviously we’re disappointed because we had a 3-1 lead,” Schmid admitted after the game. “So when you have a 3-1 lead, you’re hoping to get all three points.
“But on the other hand, getting a point away from home, it’s a good thing. I don’t think we’ve won here in like the last four tries. So it’s been a while so from that standpoint that’s better as well. I mean, you want to get something on the road, if we can win our games at home and tie our games on the road we’ll be okay, but this one feels a little bit different because we had a 3-1 lead.”