The LA Galaxy break their six-game losing streak thanks to a late goal from an unexpected substitute.
The LA Galaxy came into this match with a chance at making history, but not in a good way — a seventh loss in a row would have tied the club record from 2006. But the Galaxy were able to stop their current slide by defeating the Vancouver Whitecaps by a score of 1-0.
The narratives began to write themselves before the game even started when the revealed starting lineups showed that Guillermo Barros Schelotto, presumably with his job on the line, decided to leave Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez on the bench in favor of new arrival Yony Gonzalez.
The Galaxy got off to a decent start with some good chances from Cristian Pavon and Yony Gonzalez, but both teams were not able to find their rhythm. Hernandez got his opportunity to make an impact when he was brought in in the second half after a Gonzalez injury.
As the match went on, the pressure continued to build as the Galaxy could not find the back of the net although they had several clear chances throughout the match, including a point blank miss from Hernandez.
Schelotto then subbed on Kai Koreniuk in the 87th minute and the Galaxy II product made the most of his opportunity a few minutes later by slotting home a pass from Pavon that was nearly identical to the Hernandez miss from earlier.
Schelotto and midfielder, Sacha Kljestan, admitted that the result was more important than the performance and will hopefully give the team confidence as they prepare for their next match against their crosstown rivals, LAFC.
Let’s take a look at how the players fared on the night.
TOP OF THE CLASS
Cristian Pavon returned to once again looking like the Galaxy’s most important player as he was crucial to their success. While Pavon got off to a rough start by failing to dribble around Vancouver goalkeeper Evan Bush after a turnover that looked to be a certain goal.
He continued to press in the offense as he led the team in shots and chances created. While his passing success rate was not among the top five for the team, he still managed to get his teammates involved with key passes in optimal positions. While Efrain Alvarez slipped after a pass from a cut inside and Hernandez skied a clear goal-scoring opportunity, it was Kai Koreniuk who helped put Pavon on the stat sheet with an assist.
Even with his flaws, Pavon still showed that he is a class above the rest of his teammates and maintains to often be the most dangerous player on the field.
Jonathan Klinsmann earned his first start on Sunday in a blowout loss, but was given another opportunity to show his potential and he went on to record his first MLS shutout.
Klinsmann had four saves on five Vancouver shots. While the Whitecaps were not particularly peppering the goal, Klinsmann still came up with big saves when he was called upon. His best save of the night came after an Ali Adnan free kick where his athleticism and positioning was on display.
In addition to making the saves, it was clear that Klinsmann is vocal on the pitch as he can be heard barking orders during free-kick setups and after defensive stops. This is the type of quality that won’t show up on the stat sheet but is crucial to being the leader of the defense.
Klinsmann said in the post-game press conference that he came to the Galaxy because he was told he would be given an opportunity. While he said that he has not had conversations about being the regular starter, he said that he is here to play and will be ready whenever Schelotto calls upon him.
Emiliano Insua was back in the starting lineup after welcoming a newborn son, Galo, just two days prior. He seems to be playing inspired as he played a full 90 minutes after being subbed off in his previous appearances.
In a game with limited offensive firepower, Insua led the team in tackles and helped the back line secure a shutout. One critique of Insua’s game recently has been his poor passer rating, but he managed to lead the team in this match with an 84% pass success rate and putting crosses in dangerous areas.
Insua also has a clear connection with Pavon, so when one player has a solid game it is very likely that both players will be on the same page. Their chemistry was working in the game as they worked well in building toward the attack.
Yony Gonzalez was once again in the starting lineup, this time being asked to fill the role as a lone striker. Gonzalez showed a lot of energy with his high press and ambitious play. And he almost found himself on the scoresheet for the first time if not for an offside call.
While the effort looks to be there with Gonzalez, he does not appear to be the goal-scoring threat that the Galaxy have been sorely missing this season. It looks like Schelotto is trying to force a round peg into a square hole by playing him in the striker role.
Gonzalez is still building his rapport with his teammates and that could be an explanation as to why his passes look to be just a little bit off. Additionally, his aggressive play is also double-edged as it highlights his energetic style of play but often leads to him being fouled or simulating that he is being fouled. One of his strong challenges eventually led to an injury that caused him to be subbed off after 50 minutes.
I will continue to be a broken record on this until it is proven to be untrue. The LA Galaxy are still yet to win a game when Javier Hernandez starts. That may be harsh or difficult to Hernandez, but the pressure continues to build the longer this streak continues.
The positive outcome from this game is that Hernandez was on the field during the second half as the Galaxy won the game in the closing moments. Hernandez was involved in the match and did well to make runs to draw defenders out of position. Unfortunately, Hernandez was not brought in as the highest paid player in the league just to make smart runs.
The stress will only continue to compound on Hernandez after he missed an open shot on goal from an excellent pass from Pavon. Some grace could be given if Hernandez hit the target, but the manner in which he missed showed that he is a player not playing anywhere near the level he needs to be at.
To make matters worse for Hernandez, subsitute Kai Korenuik buried a nearly identical opportunity to show up Mexico’s all-time leading scorer. And for the second week in a row, Schelotto emphasized in the post game comments that his decision to put Hernandez on the bench are purely coaches decisions. Schelotto even went as far to say that in a single striker formation, Gonzalez was the better option.
I still maintain hope that Hernandez has the ability to be successful with the Galaxy, but it is looking more and more like it may take an off-season for Hernandez to get right physically and mentally.
After being subbed on in the 87th minute, Kai Koreniuk won’t be getting a player grade, but he absolutely deserves to be praised for his late game heroics to give the Galaxy their first win in 42 days.
Schelotto spoke highly of Koreniuk after the saying that the goal was wonderful for him and will help give him confidence in the future. Koreniuk mentioned that he had spoken with Schelotto about what he can do in training to be given a chance on the field and said that he wanted to be a spark plug coming off the bench.
Koreniuk cerainly made the most of his limited minutes and was deadly with his positioning and finish. Kljestan stated that Koreniuk always comes to training ready to go and has proven to be dangeous in the box. Seeing Koreniuk’s hard work pay off made for a feel good story in what was mostly an uneventful affair.
Below you can find all player grades plus their per game average rating.