The LA Galaxy got three second-half goals to run away from the Philadelphia Union, 3-1, on a wet and windy Saturday night in Chester, PA. And in the process, at least momentarily, the club climbed as high as fourth place in the Western Conference with games still to be played over the weekend.
But the win for the Galaxy was another tale of two halves. As they watched the Union (7-10-3) go up in a goal in the first 45 minutes before staging a dominating comeback.
The Galaxy (9-7-4) had to play the match without captain Ashley Cole (Red Card) and without defensive midfielder Perry Kitchen (yellow card accumulation). For Kitchen, it was the first time this season he didn’t make the lineup and his absence, along with up and down play from Servando Carrasco and Jonathan dos Santos, was most notable.
Cole was replaced by Dave Romney on the left and Tomas Hilliard-Arce, making just his third start of the season, slotted in as the last center back.
But that right side would see most of the action in the first half as the Union’s Fafa Picault constantly stretched the field on his side. This mismatch created multiple chances for the Union until they finally capitalized in the 29-minute. That’s when CJ Sapong redirected a Borek Dockal cross that should have been saved.
Instead, the sliding ball caught Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham a bit off balance and it somehow slipped into the back of the net. But it wasn’t as if the goal was underserved or against the run of play. On the contrary. The Union should have been more dangerous going into the second 45 minutes, with goals missed and chances created but instead found themselves quickly floundering to the big starts of the Galaxy.
Galaxy head coach Sigi Schmid changed things up at halftime and brought Romain Alessandrini, who started on the bench, into the match in place of the struggling Hilliard-Arce. That moved Romney to the right back position and allowed, for the first time this season, a fully functional 3-5-2 formation, instead of just a “cockeyed” 3-5-2 that relied mostly on Galaxy midfielder Chris Pontius run up and down the field on the right side.
“We opened up both flanks and started playing the 3-5-2,” Schmid said of bringing on Alessandrini. “I was pleased with his performance and it helped our team.”
“I thought we struggled a bit,” he said of the first half and the mismatch with Hilliard-Arce. “We gave a lot of possessions away and Fafa [Picault] had the best of Tomas [Hilliard-Arce]. We needed to make sure that matchup changed. In the second half, we made a switch and it changed the pace and helped.”
The Galaxy got their first goal back just three minutes into the second half. That’s when Galaxy captain-for-the-night, Zlatan Ibrahimovic moved into space to find a pass coming through the midfield from Jonathan dos Santos. Jonathan dos Santos had just intercepted a poor pass from the Union and quickly moved the ball to Ibrahimovic.
Ibrahimovic dragged two defenders with him when he received the pass and made the perfect turn and the perfect pass, to Ola Kamara who had just made a perfectly timed run behind the center backs.
The ball split both ‘backs and Kamara was face-to-face with an onrushing Andre Blake. Blake went down to try and cut off the angle for Kamara but quickly found out the Galaxy’s Norwegian striker was much smarter and quicker on the play. Kamara scooped the ball up over the goalkeeper and watched it float into the back of the net.
It was Kamara’s eighth goal of the year and it was Ibrahimovic’s fourth assist of the season.
But Ibrahimovic would not be outdone on the goalscoring front. The Galaxy started to control every possession and soon built up a series of passes that were constantly probing the Union’s defense. That led to some dangerous setpieces and eventually, a great pass that stretched the defense down the left-hand side found Alessandrini.
His first touch took the Union defender out of the play and his second touch fed the ball to Ibrahimovic who was in the box. He let the ball come across his body and fired a right-footed laser into the side netting at the far post to bring the Galaxy ahead in the game for the first time 63 minutes into the match.
With both goals coming as a result of Jonathan dos Santos’ much-improved play, it was clear to see he’s finding some offensive success on the field.
“He inserts himself in the midfield and is one of the guys who can connect the game for us,” Schmid said of the younger dos Santos. “He opens up space and breaks lines for us in a different way, sometimes passing, sometimes dribbling, but he is very important.”
Michael Ciani, the much-maligned defender, who had a poor first half but, much like the rest of the team, came alive with some good stops on defense, scored a header in the 82-minute of the match to finally put the game away.
Alessandrini would finish with two assists on the night and what should be a Man of the Match award as the second half doesn’t get off the ground without his inclusion. He now has three goals and four assists in his last five matches and was dynamic and full of everything the Galaxy needed him to be to find the comeback win.
And in winning on the road for the second consecutive week (4-3-3 on the road) the Galaxy have now extended their six-game win streak by one more, are now 3-7-0 on the season when allowing the first goal, and are now 3-5-0 when trailing at halftime. They also stayed undefeated when playing in Philadelphia and have still only lost once to the Union in their 11 total meetings (7-1-3).
The Galaxy will head back to Los Angeles on Sunday before a short week will find them facing off against cross-town rivals LAFC on Thursday night at Banc of California Stadium (7:30 p.m.; ESPN). That’s where the Galaxy will look to win the season series against their second place rivals.
“For us, we want to continue rising in the standings,” Schmid explained after the match. “And if we do that, we put ourselves in a position to get into the playoffs.”