Carson, CA — The LA Galaxy, behind repeated defensive miscues, could only muster a 2-2 draw with DC United — the worst team in Major League Soccer this year — on Wednesday night at a sold-out StubHub Center.
With another early goal from Zlatan Ibrahimovic (5′) and a sublime finish from Chris Pontius (25′), the Galaxy should have been able to ride out the two-goal lead against United (2-7-5). But instead, they allowed two easy goals, in a near repeat of Saturday’s 3-3 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes, through the remainder of the game and lost more valuable points in their quest for the playoffs.
The Galaxy (6-7-4) started the night with a defensive lineup that saw the club back in a familiar 3-5-2 formation with both Dave Romney and Chris Pontius playing wingbacks. But they also moved defender Ashley Cole into a defensive midfield position and slotted Tomas Hilliard-Arce into the back line with Jorgen Skjelvik and Michael Ciani.
Similar to their 3-3 draw with the San Earthquakes over the weekend, the Galaxy scored early, with Romney combining nicely with Ibrahimovic on a long cross into the top corner of the box. The big man out-jumped DC United’s Oniel Fisher, brought the ball down, and hammered it past goalkeeper David Ousted for the early lead.
“To be honest, it wasn’t that amazing of a cross,” Romney told reporters after the game. “But if you’re serving it to him (Ibrahimovic), he’s going to finish it. It was on the corner of the 18, but yeah, amazing finish. Just get into the box and he always finds a way to do something with it.”
It was Ibrahimovic’s tenth goal of the season, and his third in the last two games. That moves Ibrahimovic into a tie for fourth in the league in goals with just 812 minutes played. He was also averaging 1.00 goals per 90 minutes played entering into the match and this game is sure to push that total higher.
A similar play would victimize Fisher in the 25-minute when Pontius would take a long ball, from Skjelvik this time, in almost the same spot on the field. Pontius put a wonderful first touch on it making Fisher miss and would bury it past Ousted for the second goal of the night.
It was Pontius’ third goal of the season and his fifth game in-a-row with either a goal or an assist.
But less than a minute later United would claw one back with Luciano Acosta casually putting a ball between Romney and Skjelvik where Zoltán Stieber would run onto it and hit the ball into the far post netting.
“Every time it’s something different, Schmid said in his post-game press conference. “The first goal came from a bad clearance. And that started off the process. And then we get back-doored on a run.
“We’ve got a penchant right now of waiting for the team to collect the ball,” he continued, “and we’ve got a penchant of zoning too much.”
But in the 30-minute the Galaxy would find themselves in a difficult situation. Jamieson would have to leave the game with a hip strain — he was replaced by Baggio Husidic — and the Galaxy would find themselves on the end of one of many controversial calls by center referee Silviu Petrescu.
On a rebound from a free kick, Pontius seemed to have scored the Galaxy’s third goal of the night. But the sideline official had raised his flag and Petrescu had blown his whistle. The replay would show that Pontius was onside when he scored the goal, but because the whistle was blown there was no VAR review.
It was a mistake by the officials that cost the Galaxy a go-ahead goal and should have resulted in a win.
The second half saw the Galaxy fail to get back into their dominant first half rhythm. And saw United swell with confidence. There were close calls throughout the final 45 minutes but it was Darron Mattocks who eventually tied the game with a goal in the 85-minute.
His run through the left-hand side of the box drew coverage from Husidic and Kitchen but failed to draw Ciani who didn’t step to Mattocks. The ball was shot past Bingham and the game would end in a stalemate.
It was a disappointing night for the Galaxy outside of a solid 25 minutes to start the game. And for the second time in two games, the Galaxy took a two-goal lead and simply threw it away.
“Last week and many games before that where we are taking the lead,” Ibrahimovic explained to reporters. “In the beginning (earlier in the season), we didn’t take lead. We were losing and then we catched to get a draw — but now it’s opposite. Now we are leading, winning, and we get a draw at the end.
“I think we are repeating the same basic mistakes,” he continued. “And we are getting punished for the mistakes we are doing. And the opponents are taking use of our mistakes and they get one chance they score. They get a second and they score. It’s a shame because we should win this game.”
The Galaxy will get another chance to get home points against the Columbus Crew (July 7, 7:30 p.m.) before embarking on a difficult road trip that will see them in New England and Philadelphia on back-to-back weekends.
But the message is clear. The Galaxy should be winning these games, and while there are many games left in the season, time is running out for this defense — the most expensive in the league — to show itself worthy of a post-season appearance.
“If you win a game 2-0 or 3-1, like the last game, you should be in control. But we are not in control,” Ibrahimovic said bluntly.
And for a team that is dying to “be in control,” the July 10 transfer window and some healthy bodies still could play a big part of the rest of this season.
LA GALAXY VS DC UNITED