CARSON, Calif. — It’s a night that they’d like to forget. But with Bruce Arena coaching from the other bench, and the field still holding the unsightly scars from the Wango Tango concert the night before, it will be hard to do so.
The New England Revolution took down the LA Galaxy by a score of 2-1 on Sunday night in front of 20,828. The score, more indicative of the Revolution’s ability to counter-attack at will, than any success the Galaxy had in trying to score goals.
It was a familiar pattern for the Galaxy who have now lost three home games in a row, after winning their last two games on the road. The counter-attacking and directness of New England was similar to the Colorado Rapids, who also were able to tear the Galaxy apart at home in a loss on May 19.
“We hoped that today we would win, but we couldn’t do it,” Galaxy Head Coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto explained after the game. “I think we managed the ball in the first half until the 40th minute, and after that, in the last five minutes, they scored on us.
“And then we gave them 20 more minutes in the second half, and then we came back in the second half and tried to do something more, but they scored the second goal,” he continued. “The difference was the two goals, but we tried.”
In trying, the Galaxy held almost 63-percent possession but were out-shot 16 to 14 and 7 to 2 on target. It was possession without purpose. And with the continued injury to Rolf Feltscher, Schelotto forced a back line of Jorgen Skjelvik, Diego Polenta, Giancarlo Gonzalez, and Dan Steres. With Steres playing in the unfamiliar right back position.
The Galaxy would also need to burn a substitute early in the match as Sebastian Lleget would go down with an injury to his left hamstring. The injury could end up keeping Lletget away from his national team call-up for the United States and their Gold Cup. But in this game, it just forced Chris Pontius into the right midfield position in the 10th minute.
New England would get on the board just before the end of the first half. That’s when Cristian Penilla, running up the right side of the Galaxy’s defense, threw a last minute low burner across the front of goal — a ball that had been played multiple times before.
Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham, coming off two back-to-back shutouts on the road, got low to cut the ball off and stop the cross. But instead of stopping the ball, his outstretched arm redirected the shot underneath his body and across the line.
It was perhaps the lowest moment of the season for Bingham, who has otherwise been playing very consistently in the net with consecutive six-save, five-save, and five-save results in his last three games.
When requested for comment after the game, the club failed to make Bingham available.
The Galaxy, trailing at halftime, have never won a game in 2019 (0-3-0). And when they allow the first goal the club is a pedestrian 1-6-0.
New England’s Teal Bunbury scored the second goal on the 60th-minute mark. That’s when Skjelvik, under pressure along the far touchline, would give up possession and start the counter-attack for the Revolution. The ball would eventually be played into the middle for Bunbury who would split Gonzalez and midfielder Joe Corona and slot the ball past Bingham.
It was the type of two and three pass attack that would see the Revolution win the game. It was direct, with purpose, and would use the Galaxy’s need to equalize, and their propensity to overcommit, against them.
“We knew that maybe they would use the counter-attack – if you remember the game against Colorado was very similar,” Schelotto admitted. “But we tried to be together between the lines. But in the beginning of the second half, they scored their second goal and had one shot hit the post after their counter-attacks.
“We gave them the space,” he said. “But we need to talk. We talked about that before the second half. But sometimes it happens, because the other team plays well. I think they played very well today.”
Galaxy midfielder Jonathan dos Santos also acknowledged the counter-attack and that the club didn’t have an answer for it.
“Their counter-attacks killed us,” he said. “We were sloppy defensively. Every time they would get the ball and start a counter, it almost ended in a goal. I gave up a ball that led to a counter attack, but luckily, they weren’t able to finish it. Every time they had a chance, they were able to come at us too easy.
“I have to help fix this because the midfield is a very important part of the team. If the midfield is playing well, the team will play better. There are eleven players out on the field, and we have to stop those kinds of plays.”
The Galaxy’s only real answer would be to score a goal themselves. And that would come in the form of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his pure athleticism. His overhead bicycle kick – his 11th goal of the season – in the 84th-minute would momentarily boost the Galaxy’s effort. Even it would eventually fail to matter.
Polenta had the final dying gasp for the Galaxy as his stoppage-time strike, after a good scramble in front of the Revolution net, clanged off the crossbar, but couldn’t find a home.
“This one is to forget as soon as possible,” Ibrahimovic said of the evening. “Even if you score the goal of the year. This one is to forget.”
The problems for the Galaxy have been many. But most agree that inconsistency, a condensed schedule, a lack of depth, and no other dangerous offensive game-changers besides Ibrahimovic, are the real culprits.
Outside of Ibrahimovic’s acrobatics, the Galaxy only put one other shot on goal the entire game – another Ibrahimovic shot in the 30th minute. And while Polenta hit the crossbar, and dos Santos had a late-game shot blocked – one of five blocked shots the Galaxy took – the finished product was lacking.
The loss will continue the Galaxy’s soul searching as they take a ten-day break before playing their first match of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (June 12; 7:30 p.m. – Dignity Health Sports Park, Track & Field Stadium).
And that break is more than needed.
“We don’t have training. We are free for a couple of days, maybe it’s better like that,” Ibrahimovic explained. “I think we all have three or four days. Let’s go and recover, take rest, and come back here with a fresh mind to do better.”
But before he left, Ibrahimovic said his most searching, and perhaps scathing, comment of the year.
“Maybe this is who we are, to be realistic,” he said, suggesting that the Galaxy had some deeper issues. “We have ups and downs, and reality will catch you sooner or later. We just have to do our best and fight for it.”