continue their slide with their third loss in the last eight days. They hit the post but never found their way into the mtach.
CARSON, Calif. — It was another tough day at the office for the LA Galaxy as they watched their perfect home record evaporate the first half of a 2-0 loss to New York City FC on Saturday afternoon.
It was the Galaxy’s third loss in eight days, and it was another day that showed two glaring issues: that the Galaxy were exhausted after a condensed schedule pushed them from the east coast to west, and that they sorely missed the engine that is Jonathan dos Santos.
Dos Santos arrived early to the stadium on Saturday morning to allow the training staff to assess his health status before today’s game, but ultimately some pain in his hamstring had Galaxy Head Coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto keep him out of the lineup.
“Well we try, he came in very early, he trained in the gym to see if he could be ready or not, and he said he had a bit of pain on the muscle,” Schelotto explained. “Maybe it was better not to take a risk to put him on the field.”
But dos Santos is more than just a player, he’s the driving force behind the Galaxy’s possession and success, and the player’s know it.
“He’s an important player for us,” Galaxy captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic said after the match. “I think he’s the engine for our team. He keeps the game going. With him on the field we play a different game, he wants the ball all the time. He drives the game, and he likes to have the ball on his feet. He gets the game going. So when you don’t have a player like that, you change a little bit.”
The club was also without Rolf Feltscher (toe injury) and Perry Kitchen (ankle injury but back to full training). Favio Alvarez, the Galaxy’s newest addition, had not received his P-1 Visa in time for the game on Saturday, although he’s expected to be available next week for their match against Colorado (Sunday, May 19, 5 p.m.; SpectrumSN).
Schelotto opted for a more robust backline – switching from the normal back four by adding three center backs – and giving Giancarlo Gonzalez his first start since joining the Galaxy in early April with five defenders in the back.
But that doesn’t mean he was happy about it.
“I like to play more with four in the back,” Schelotto said. “Like we’ve been used to playing almost all year. But, sometimes when we have the games or trips like we had during the week, sometimes we have to make a little change.
“If you check the player injuries that we have for this game, maybe we needed to change. But, about the result, you check and say why, but listen, nothing happened today. We lost, and that’s it. [I don’t think the formation and the tactics are very important at this point]. I think it’s more important how we can play, and what we can do on the field.”
Schelotto is mostly focused on the fact the Galaxy have given up eight goals in the last three games after giving up eight goals in the first nine games.
The Galaxy had survived most of the first half – even scoring in the 27th minute of the match before it was correctly ruled offside – but let their guard down with seven minutes left before the break.
That’s when NYC’s Anton Tinnerholm received a pass between defenders at the top of the box and fired a shot to Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham’s right. Bingham dove and save the shot that could have found the net. But Bingham didn’t get any direction the ball, and that’s when NYC’s Héber jumped on the rebound and placed it into the back of the net.
The Goal came in the 44th minute and should have been the only one allowed by the Galaxy in that half.
But past the 45-minute mark, and past the 1-minute of added time, NYC received a set-piece opportunity. They whipped the ball into the box where it found Tinnerholm, again. Tinnerholm controlled the ball and whipped it towards the center of the box where Galaxy midfielder Uriel Antuna slid with an outstretched arm and handled the ball.
The referee stopped the play because of the handball, but the assistant referee’s raised the flag and issued an offside call — delayed as it was.
The play went to a video review on the handball, and ultimately, they found that Tinnerholm was not offside (the replay agrees with that assessment) and that the penalty should stand.
Maximiliano Moralez buried the kick, and the Galaxy wouldn’t recover for the rest of the game.
They would play better in the second half — after switching back into a 4-4-2 formation — would hit the crossbar twice in the same play in the 86th minute and have a ball cleared off the line after NYC goalkeeper Sean Johnson was caught in no-man’s land. But nothing would stick for the Galaxy.
But the game could have longer repercussions than just the loss as Ibrahimovic was seen grabbing the neck of Johnson just after hitting the crossbar. It’s borderline hands to the face, and the MLS Disciplinary Committee usually doesn’t take that laying down.
A fine for Ibrahimovic should be expected, and a suspension wouldn’t be totally out of place, even if everyone can agree Johnson made a meal of the play.
Ibrahimovic also has a valid gripe that a penalty kick was missed and should have been awarded to the Galaxy early in the 51st minute when Ibrahimovic was able to get around NYC defender Maxime Chanot and take the ball away from him. Chanot then kicked Ibrahimovic who was inside the penalty box, but referee Chris Penso whistled the foul on Ibrahimovic.
The replay clearly showed Ibrahimovic’s superb body position, but Penso didn’t review the play, and it’s unclear if VAR looked at the play.
Ibrahimovic didn’t think there was much to discuss; it was a foul in his opinion.
“I said to the ref he’s acting injured, but I didn’t touch him,” Ibrahimovic told reporters after the game. “He kicked me. I touched the ball. I said I didn’t touch him. I said afterward to look at VAR because that’s why we have this VAR. But he didn’t look at it or didn’t review the other ones.
“I touched the ball that’s the only thing I know. I didn’t touch him. If I touched him, he kicked me. But he didn’t want to review it.
“Again, we have this VAR” he continued. “I think we should take it off and not play with it.”
The Galaxy will get more than a full week’s rest before their next game and are likely to get dos Santos back from injury, and Favio Alvarez integrated into the squad once his paperwork has been received.
And having some fresh bodies, some real rest and a new mindset should put the Galaxy in a much better place both physically and mentally.
“Our goal was to get into first place, but we couldn’t make it happen, but now we have to keep working,” Galaxy midfielder Joe Corona said in the locker room. “Those were games where we could have moved ahead, but we have to learn from our mistakes.”
REFEREE RESPONSE TO POOL REPORTER QUESTION
“Regarding the awarding of a penalty kick to NYCFC in the first half, the on-field decision was offside. The assistant referee used the delay offside technique. Both the referee and assistant referee, after the delayed offside, stopped play for an LA handball, a penalty kick. The on-field decision of offside prior to the handball negates the penalty. Upon review by the referee using video, it was determined the on-field offside decision was incorrect and the NYCFC player was onside, thus the awarding of the penalty for handball.”