Controversy, a new MLS record, a promising debut, but no points for the LA Galaxy on the road to DC United.
It had all the makings of a road victory for the LA Galaxy. DC United was without star-striker Wayne Rooney (illness) and didn’t get new acquisition Ola Kamara his work visa in time for the match.
The Galaxy, on the other hand, saw superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic return to the field after serving his one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation, and were able — through some backbreaking work — to get the P-1 visa of new signing Cristian Pavon in time to give him the start at Audi Field.
Then the Galaxy offense took off like a rocket. They came out of the gates from the minute the whistle blew by pinning United to their defensive end and fired shot after shot in a never-ending barrage.
And in the process, the Galaxy took 28 shots to United’s 12 and garnered 69.5% of the possession on the night. The Galaxy more than doubled DC’s total passes (531 to 234), had a higher passing percentage (76% to 61%), sent in more crosses (29 to 8), won more duels (69 to 45), made more tackles (11 to 6), and earned nine corners to United’s one.
But while that’s an impressive list — especially the possession and shots numbers — that’s about all that went to plan on the night.
And the Galaxy’s 2-1 loss to DC was just another, in an ever-growing field of speed bumps, the Galaxy couldn’t navigate, couldn’t fight over, and couldn’t gain any points from.
“I think the result is very unfair because we deserved to get something but DC had a wonderful night,” Galaxy Head Coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto told reporters after the loss. “We had a lot of chances, and they had two chances and scored. They were very efficient, and we couldn’t score, sometimes making bad decisions.”
But the unfairness on the night could have also extended to the two huge saves that Bill Hamid, DC Goalkeeper, made on the evening.
With the Galaxy already losing 1-0 thanks DC’s Paul Arriola and some questionable defense directly from a goal kick in the 28th-minute, a scramble inside the box would find Galaxy midfielder Uriel Antuna with a snap-shot in traffic. The ball traveled past several DC players, but Hamid was laid out to his right and was able to get a big hand on the ball to save it from going over the line.
The shot didn’t have much power behind it, but there was no doubt, it was likely the Galaxy’s game-tying goal coming in stoppage time of the first half.
But Hamid would make an even better save in the second half, and he’d do it after the Galaxy’s only goal of the night.
Favio Alvarez got his third goal of the season and now moves into second-place on the Galaxy’s goal-scoring charts for the season. His left-footed pass into the back of the net coming courtesy of an Ibrahimovic side-volley attempt that found Alvarez in the middle of the box with nothing but the goal in front of him. It was a breakdown in defense from a packed United group, but it was just one of a handful of meaningful chances for LA.
Hamid pulled out the magic in the 71st-minute when the Galaxy earned a free kick on the right side of the field about 35 yards from goal. Dos Santos’ service was in behind Ibrahimovic who fought off his defender to full-volley his right-footed rocket that was destined for twine.
But instead, Hamid’s left hand got quickly into the air and kept the Galaxy’s go-ahead goal out of the net.
Just two minutes later, the Galaxy allowed a shot from the top of the box from DC’s Ulises Segura that would open an entire sequence of saves and shots eventually leading to DC’s game-winner.
The shot was parried wide by Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham, where Arriola was crashing the nearside post. Arriola was very-nearly offside — something that saved the Galaxy in the first half of the game on a similar play — but fired his shot, from seven yards, at Bingham. His reaction-save pushed the ball into the middle of the box where Lucas Rodriguez found it and slotted it home to the Bingham’s left.
“I mean, it’s about not repeating the mistakes you are doing,” Ibrahimovic said. “And today the second goal they did — which was offside — they scored exactly the same way they scored the first. So if you don’t learn from the first one to the other one, then it’s difficult.
“But I think we were unlucky today. We were the better team by far, but they won, so congrats to them.”
Ibrahimovic had a rough night. And some of that can be placed on him and some of it certainly at the hands of center referee Alan Kelly.
Ibrahimovic launched 15 shots on the night — his most shots ever in a game for the Galaxy and set a new MLS record with the mark — but got only one of those shots on goal.
However, in very real terms, he was also the victim of three separate penalty shouts, with all three cases of players not going for the ball but either undercutting or colliding with Ibrahimovic in dangerous goal-scoring opportunities.
DC defender Jalen Robinson should have been found guilty twice for undercutting Ibrahimovic. One of which he paid dearly for by basically ramming his body into the six-foot-five Swede in the box with no chance at the ball. The other challenge he never left his feet on a header but moved under Ibrahimovic to throw him off balance.
The other incident involved defender Frédéric Brillant who drove his shoulder into the back of the head of Ibrahimovic, inside the penalty box, after a scramble for a deflected ball.
The Galaxy defense, however, has been surprising. They’ve allowed nine goals in the last three games and are projected to allow 51 goals this season. That would be a 13 goal improvement from last year and currently puts them in the top 50% of teams in the league with 36 goals allowed.
“Sometimes you feel like you played well and dominated games,” Schelotto said. We managed the ball and managed the chances, but we have given teams a lot of advantage. We need to try to be harder on defense because the last three games we have defended very weakly.”
The Galaxy’s defense to switch off an not learn from mistakes seems the biggest issue for a team that did everything they could to bring in another attacking option in the summer transfer window. And the stats still prove out that the Galaxy’s offense is the more significant issue. But being stronger on defense, being more reliable, is still a goal for this Galaxy side.
And the good news for this Galaxy side is that Pavon looked dangerous on offense. He crossed well, attacked smartly, and played technically when he needed to. His service into Ibrahimovic is the main reason why there were even 14 attempted shots from the Galaxy’s big man.
But unfortunately, good performances in this match will always be overshadowed by the inability to get the three points. Even Ibrahimovic thinks that’s a little unfair, but who’s listening?
“I think he was the best man on the field,” he said of Pavon. “It was his first game, and he showed what his ability is, and he did a very good game. Unlucky we didn’t win to give him more credit.”