CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy will miss the playoffs for the third time in the last four years. At least that’s what a 1-1 draw with the Seattle Sounders and some other results did to the club on Wednesday night.
The Galaxy (6-11-4; 22 pts; 1.05 PPG) playing for their second game under interim head coach Dominic Kinnear and looking to stretch their win streak into two games, couldn’t hold onto a late-game lead, and a rare goal from Designated Player Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.
The fact the Galaxy even had a lead was maybe a bit surprising. Seattle (10-5-6; 38 pts; 1.71 PPG) entered the game in third place in the Western Conference and was watching, along with the Galaxy, the result in Portland where the Colorado Rapids beat the Timbers. That Rapids win took one playoff spot away from the Galaxy and gave Seattle motivation to hop over the Timbers for a chance at the conference’s top spot. Then the LAFC loss to San Jose eliminated the only remaining path to the postseason for the Galaxy with both games running similar game clocks. When all the dust settled, the draw did nothing to hurt the Galaxy besides injuring their pride on a night when the elimination from the postseason hurt more than anything.
Kinnear went with a repeat lineup from Sunday’s win over Real Salt Lake, except he replaced the injured Jonathan dos Santos (Left Calf Strain) with Sacha Kljestan in the center of midfield. Additionally, he got Chicharito back on the bench after missing the last three games with a calf injury.
The first half would find the Galaxy with plenty of opportunities. In the 15th minute, Dan Steres would head a loose ball that Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei would fumble and send it goal-bound. But Alex Roldan would lay out on the goal line and head the ball skyward where it would ricochet off the crossbar and stay out of the goal.
Pipo Gonzalez would also get a good look on a corner kick when he’d get his head to the ball in the 25th minute in some space and miss the shot along the near post.
Sixty seconds later, striker Ethan Zubak would be fed the ball into the box, where his hard-angle shot would be pushed just wide by Frei and end up clipping the far upright on its way to being cleared.
One of the shots should have found the back of the net. And Kinnear expected as much.
“The result, it’s a tough one,” he said. “I thought we were good for the three points tonight, and I think you were right. I thought we created a good number of chances in the first half, especially on set pieces. Even the second half there, we had some good ones. You know Ethan Zubak has a good chance and Javier.
“We were breaking late. Obviously, we’re defending deep.
The second half would be better for both teams, but not before Zubak was played behind the Seattle defense, where a one-hop cross from Sebastian Lletget was pushed wide from about four yards out. It was a huge miss, and Kinnear could be seen grimacing when the ball went wide.
It seemed, at that point in the game, the Galaxy just weren’t going to get a goal. That, in proper 2020 form, they’d hit the post twice and end up losing.
But Chicharito would change that when Cristian Pavon would be led out to the left on a counter-attack. Pavon would thread a pass through the Seattle defense and into Hernandez’s path, who fired back to Efrain Alvarez through the legs of a retreating João Paulo. Alvarez, who entered the game with Chicharito in the 69th minute, poked a pass into the box, and Hernandez buried it past Frei for the lead in the 78th minute.
Seattle would end up outshooting the Galaxy 17 to 12 and out possessing the home side by over 61%. And in the final 12 minutes of the match, would only continue to press for the goal that would be the equalizer.
But Chicharito would have a chance to double the lead as the game slipped into stoppage time. One-on-one with Frei in the box, Mexico’s all-time leading goalscorer fired well over the crossbar. A shot that would mean the difference between winning and losing for LA as Seattle, and Raul Ruidiaz, along with Jordan Morris, pressed through the Galaxy’s defense deep into stoppage time, fought off a tackle from Julian Araujo, and fired a low show that David Bingham got a hand on but couldn’t keep out of the back of the net.
The shot would have hurt more if it was the reason the Galaxy missed the playoffs, but as a side note to the 2020 season, it was very much on-brand for a team that was at best, sometimes competitive.
“Of course, 30 seconds, a minute left. We felt like we had it,” Said Steres after the game on if he felt the Galaxy were going to win. “We were defending well at that point. We knew they were tossing numbers forward; the game was in our hands.
“I think there were a lot of things we could have done to kill that game off in the play specifically. That’s pretty heartbreaking. The only saving factor was that Colorado and San José won tonight, so it wouldn’t have mattered anyways.”
The Galaxy will finish out their season with a road trip to Portland, where they’ll take on the Vancouver Whitecaps in their temporary home at Providence Park (the home of the Portland Timbers).
The Galaxy will also have to evaluate where they’re going to go for a coach as the season draws to an end. And ultimately, decide if only Guillermo Barros Schelotto and his coaching staff shoulder the blame for another failed season.
Kinnear was impressed with the game against Seattle. And the result was almost exactly what the Galaxy needed.
“I thought we played pretty good against Salt Lake,” he said. “I actually thought we played better tonight. So the energy was good, the ball movement was good… very, very disappointed for the guys because I thought we deserved more tonight.”