CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy gave up two leads in the game to draw with Minnesota United 2-2 on Saturday night in front of 24,891 people at StubHub Center. The draw into fourth place in the Western Conference, but the result leaves much to be desired from a Galaxy team that can’t stop hemorrhaging goals.
Minnesota (9-13-2) entered the game on an eight-game road losing streak and hadn’t even picked up a point since a win in Orlando on March 10. But they got two second-half goals from Michael Boxall and Romario Ibarra — both firsts for them in MLS — to erase two leads the Galaxy had built up.
The Galaxy (10-8-6) took the lead early in the match when Romain Alessandrini received a pass from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and then beat Minnesota ‘keeper Bobby Shuttleworth to the near post in the 7-minute. The tight space in which Ibrahimovic fed Alessandrini showed the Swedes creativity and really showed how much the Loons were looking to double Ibrahimovic everytime he got the ball.
It was Alessandrini’s eighth goal of the season and he has now scored five goals and four assists in his last seven games. It was also Ibrahimovic’s seventh assist of the season — a stat in which he leads the team.
But it wouldn’t be all good news for Alessandrini who was forced to exit the game 14-minutes later holding his right leg. Officially the Galaxy listed his injury as a right leg injury, but he’s expected to undergo some further evaluation later this week. Chris Pontius entered for the Frenchman in the 24-minute.
The Galaxy would play upbeat, energetic soccer for most of the first half. With Giovani dos Santos being particularly dangerous just missing on two strikes after some great combinations with Ibrahimovic and Ola Kamara.
But even Giovani dos Santos would find the good news last only for so long. He would be forced to exit at halftime with a left leg strain. Seeing the Mexican National teamer once again exit early — he had missed the Galaxy’s trip to Colorado last weekend and had to exit in th3 65-minute in the 4-3 win over Orlando.
Sebastian Lletget would take his place, but the Galaxy offense couldn’t find it’s flowing brand of offense that had defined the first half.
“Obviously losing Alessandrini hurt us because that was one of our things in this game,” Galaxy head coach Sigi Schmid told reporters after the game. “We really wanted to get him the ball. We thought he could go at their outside back on that side.
“And then losing Gio at halftime got us out of our rhythm a little bit. But it was just not as good in the second half as it needed to be.”
The Galaxy would see the game tied in the 64-minute when Minnesota Designated Player Darwin Quintero was isolated against Jonathan dos Santos on the left-hand side just outside the box. The little chip that Quintero hit toward the front post found Boxall given too much space Galaxy defender Michael Ciani and Boxall’s header was lofted over goalkeeper David Bingham before nestling in the back of the net.
The goal wasn’t against the run of play, in fact, Minnesota did a good job of out-hustling the Galaxy throughout the second half. The shape from the Galaxy shifted with Ibrahimovic dropping deeper in an attempt to take up the space Giovani dos Santos had occupied in the first half. Those instructions, a direction from Schmid, saw Ibrahimovic turn into more of a decoy and a playmaker than be directly involved in the play.
“Two easy goals we concede. Happens again when we’re up, then we fuck up and they score easy goals.” Jørgen Skjelvik – LA Galaxy Defender
It should be noted that the Galaxy did not make Ibrahimovic available to the media after the game saying that he was feeling ill. And from his performance on the night, perhaps a little more subdued than Galaxy faithful are used to, he could have been feeling the effects of that illness.
But Lletget would steal a goal back in the 73-minute. In a good spell of possession from the Galaxy, Jonathan dos Santos, who had a good game for the Galaxy, found Lletget hanging out to the right side near the touchline.
Minnesota defender Eric Miller was in charge of Lletget, but a late overlapping run from Galaxy defender Dave Romney forced Miller to abandon Lletget before Rasmus Schüller was able to get in front of him.
Lletget accelerated into space and buried a shot past Shuttleworth for the 2-1 lead.
And in the 80-minute Ibrahimovic almost scored career goal 499 as a free kick, that was set up by a handball on a previous free kick, would hit the crossbar freezing Shuttleworth. Ibrahimovic laughed as the ball didn’t go in and could be seen mouthing “wow” on replays.
But that one-goal lead would again be squandered as the Galaxy defense fell to simple passing once again. Just 11-minutes after Lletget had plowed through the Minnesota defense, Galaxy captain Ashley Cole would get caught up the field. The space behind him was exploited by a substitute Abu Danladi and his cross to Romario Ibarra — all the way across the box — would see the ball end up in the back of the net.
Galaxy defender Jørgen Skjelvik, looking more than frustrated after the game was frank about the Galaxy’s continued mistakes.
“We need to work on our shape and our tactics,” he said. “Two easy goals we concede. Happens again when we’re up, then we fuck up and they score easy goals. It’s the same we’ve been doing all season. So we need to work on our tactics and how to defend.”
The Galaxy have given away thee points in their last two games — including the loss to Colorado last weekend. That’s against the 11th and eighth place teams in the Western Conference – with both games a valuable way to get points in a conference that is growing increasingly competitive.
The Galaxy also dropped points to the San Jose Earthquakes and DC United earlier in the year. Making their attempt to gain a playoff position a more difficult proposition.
And the Galaxy could have been bailed out in this game as Minnesota captain Francisco Calvo picked up his second yellow card in the 89-minute and Ibrahimovic was brought down deep in stoppage time that might have some people convinced he earned a penalty.
But referee Baldomero Toledo, with assistance from VAR in his ear, let play continue without awarding a game-changing call.
“Yeah, of course, it is,” Skjelvik said after being asked if it was mentally exhausting to continue to concede late goals and losing valuable points. “We’re always up. Then we screw it up and lose points when we should have won.”