The LA Galaxy scored two unlikely goals on the New England Revolution, after the 90-minute, in a wild and wacky match that saw both teams finish with just ten players on Saturday night in Foxborough, Massachusettes.
The final score, 3-2 — with a brace from Galaxy midfielder Chris Pontius — will flatter the Galaxy and bury the Revolution. But for most of the night, the home team would be far superior to the visitors in almost every facet of the game.
The Galaxy (8-7-4) started the game without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, their leading goal scorer, who didn’t travel with the club to play on the plastic turf of Gillette Stadium. That probably disappointed many of the 36,573 fans in attendance, but the way the Galaxy started, they probably missed the Swedish superstar more.
The Revolution (7-5-7) entered the match on a seven-game unbeaten streak having not lost at home since a 1-0 loss to the Columbus Crew on May 19.
The game was a chippy affair. Neither team was able to gain much possession and the fouls tested the patience of referee Robert Sibiga early and often. He was forced to explain, chastise, and warn players with every blow of the whistle. And it was obvious the players were having a tough time adjusting to his officiating.
Romain Alessandrini, who seemed frustrated from the first whistle, thought he was fouled near the sideline in the 23rd-minute. With no call headed his way, he made a rash challenge on the Revolution’s Christian Penilla. Penilla was tossed to the ground earning the Frenchman a yellow card, but Penilla, upset with the way he was fouled, kicked-out at Alessandrini twice.
Sibiga didn’t hesitate to show Penilla a red card and the Galaxy looked to have just found a clear path towards three points in a tough place to play.
But the Revolution would have other ideas.
Down a man for just five minutes (28′), Diego Fagundez would pull his team out of the shorthanded hole. Luis Caicedo was able to get a ball in the middle of the field about 30 yards from goal. His pass, a give-and-go with Fagundez, twice pulled the Galaxy defenders out of position. When the final ball found Fagundez in space between Galaxy defender Dave Romney, and midfielder Chris Pontius, and with defender Ashley Cole about a good yard or two behind the rest of his line keeping everyone onside, his shot would go easily past goalkeeper David Bingham for a 1-0 lead.
That lead would hold for ten minutes until some good ball movement and a brilliant run from central defender Jorgen Skjelvik would eventually find Pontius for the equalizer and the first of his two goals on the night. In the 38-minute Skjelvik stormed through the center of the field simply gobbling up the space the Revolution allowed.
His presence created an overload on the left-hand side and his pass to Cole was within perfect stride for the Englishman to get a good cross on. Ola Kamara darted inside, as did Alessandrini, and that pulled the Revolution defense toward the goal. So Pontius was left as the late runner on the right side of the box and was able to half-volley a gorgeous shot into the back of the net and past goalkeeper Matt Turner.
It was Pontius’ fourth goal of the season — he’d get number five before the night was over — and it extended his streak of scoring or assisting in the last seven Galaxy games.
But in true Galaxy form, they’d allow a go-ahead goal just seconds before halftime — to a still 10-man Revolution team – when Michael Ciani was victimized by Caicedo. Andrew Farrell whipped in a dangerous ball behind the Galaxy center-back and all he could do was stand and watch as the ball was headed past Bingham for the 2-1 lead.
The second half was as chippy and broken as the first half. And, if not for a stout left post, the Galaxy would have allowed another goal in the 74-minute. That’s when Teal Bunberry, the Revolution’s leading goal scorer, got on the end of another Farrel cross, and behind Ciani again, only to see his full-stretch redirected ball ping off the post and stay out.
The 78-minute would see another chance go begging for the Revolution as Cole was forced to clear a Bunberry shot off the line after Bingham had been beaten to the far post.
In the 85-minute Cole would make his last action of the game. Having received a yellow card earlier in the match for a questionable foul, he took out Juan Agudelo after Agudelo seemed to have controlled the ball with his hand. Sibiga didn’t call that foul but the challenge from Cole was enough to see his second yellow card and his ejection. Clearly, the end of a frustrating night for the Galaxy and Cole — or so it seemed.
For whatever reason, playing even numbers allowed the Galaxy to do what they do best — they played direct. And after getting some dangerous possession in the Revolutions half, they earned a corner kick two minutes into stoppage time.
Alessandrini’s service found Romney on the back post for the defender’s first goal of the season. His run, behind his defender, was able to open space up before heading the ball past Turner.
And with the score knotted up, nearly guaranteeing the Galaxy would walk away with a point and be happy with it.
Instead, a searching ball from Alessandrini, that was in the general direction Giovani dos Santos, saw the Mexican playmaker run past the ball. But in doing so he dummied the ball, and the defender, to Pontius who fired a shot from only ten yards away for the game-winner in the fifth minute of stoppage.
There aren’t many good takeaways besides the three points for the club. And the Galaxy will have felt they were lucky on a night that Ciani’s defensive miscues should have cost them any hopes of the victory. And it’s a far cry from last week’s comprehensive four-goal victory over Columbus.
Although, Alessandrini would finish the night with two assists, and Pontius would have the game-winner and a brace.
But with Cole (red card) and Perry Kitchen (yellow card accumulation) suspended for their next game against the Philadelphia Union (July 21, Chester, PA), there are likely to be some ramifications to the poor discipline shown on the night.
For now however, with a long trip back to Los Angeles, and a six-game unbeaten streak in their pockets, the Galaxy will simply take the three points — points which have moved them into sixth in the Western Conference and into a playoff spot — and try and forget almost everything that happened in this match.