Editor’s Note: The article below was written by guest-contributor Eduardo Hernandez. Hernandez, in conjunction with co-host and LA Times Soccer Reporter Kevin Baxter, attended the LA Galaxy vs Minnesota United match as our guest as he furthers his young career as a sports writer.
The Article was edited by Larry Morgan.
Story by Eduardo Hernandez for Corner of the Galaxy:
CARSON, Calif. – With the continued absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Galaxy head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto pointed to Uriel Antuna to take the role of a lone striker in Saturday’s game against visiting Minnesota United at Dignity Health Sports Park. The Mexican international responded with an impressive performance in the Galaxy’s 3-2 victory.
Barros Schelotto said after last Thursday’s practice his team has been working out with the 21-year-old at the top of the formation because he saw great potential in his attacking skills.
“We need to figure out the problem of playing without a striker. Today we practiced with Antuna in front,” Barros Schelotto said at the time. “He’s fast. He becomes a danger for the defense when he plays in the position (striker).”
Antuna has been used most often as a winger in his career, but he said he has played as a striker before.
“I know the position, in the beginning of my career I played as a striker,” he said after Saturday’s win. “In any position whether it’s right back or defensive midfielder I will always give the best of me.
“I will never consider a ball lost and give it all where they place me.”
Barros Schelotto went with Antuna over Chris Pontius because he felt Antuna could pressure Minnesota with his agility and pace.
Pontius said last week he was growing accustomed to the striker role in Ibrahimovic’s absence despite struggling to make an impact in last week’s 2-0 loss to FC Dallas.
“I’m getting used to that role, like I said I could play there,” Pontius said. “It’s not the most comfortable thing for me, but I certainly can play there.”
As soon as the whistle blew Saturday, Antuna tried to gain possession against Minnesota United center backs Ike Opara and Michael Boxall. He was a “workhorse” moving around the field and using his long strides to win one-on-one battles.
Antuna’s efforts were rewarded in the 36th minute when Minnesota United’s Osvaldo Alonso shoved Antuna from behind in front of the Minnesota goal and referee Jair Marrufo signaled for a penalty. Galaxy captain Jonathan dos Santos converted the kick for a 1-0 lead.
Antuna continued to make things uncomfortable for the opposition and United goalkeeper Vito Mannone almost was dispossessed on several occasions.
In the 81st minute, Sebastian Lletget sent a pass to Antuna, who beat Boxall and responded with a cross back to Lletget, who scored the Galaxy’s third and final goal.
Pontius acknowledged Antuna had an impressive night.
“He was a machine for us,” he said. “I mean, in the 90th minute, he (Antuna) is going to pressure the goalkeeper.
“He helps create the third goal, just a guy that shows up in spots that we need him to, running into the channels. He was unbelievable.”
Barros Schelotto understandably had high praise for his young performer.
“Yeah for sure, this was his best game. Even for the team, I think this was the best game,” Barros Schelotto said. “I am very happy for him because he ran a lot and he made a difference in front.
“He is very young, and he is growing, and he will keep growing better if he can do games like today.”
Antuna, who is on a year-long loan from English power Manchester City, said it not only was a special night for him but especially for the team since it was coming off a tough loss.
“Well, it is an unforgettable night. The whole team contributed in the victory,” he said. “It was not just one player, it was everyone. Everyone did well … good pressure, good finishes, everyone fought to the maximum the whole game. So, it was everyone.
“Like I said when I arrived,” he went on, “I will fight, so if God permits in the future, I could go back to Europe. I have fought since the beginning of the season to be in my best form at the level of the team.
“This is an excellent team and I have arrived to be a champion with the Galaxy and give the best of me.”