Losses to the Vancouver Whitecaps bookend a bizarre and disappointing LA Galaxy season.
The LA Galaxy and the Vancouver Whitecaps entered MLS Decision Day with nothing left to decide in terms of playoff qualification. While both teams had already been eliminated from postseason consideration, both managers opted to start first-choice lineups.
The match opened with the Galaxy maintaining possession and earning some good opportunities in front of goal. However, the Whitecaps managed to be the first on the score sheet when Lucas Cavallini headed in a cross into the box.
Things went from bad to worse in the 41st minute when Julian Araujo was shown a red card after a VAR review. Down a goal and reduced to ten men, the LA Galaxy never looked like they were going to recover, especially after Vancouver slotted home their second goal just two minutes before half time.
The final dagger came in injury time to bring the Galaxy’s season to close in the same manner in which it started, with a loss to the Whitecaps.
Let’s take a look at how the players fared on the afternoon.
TOP OF THE CLASS
In what may have been his last match with the club, Cristian Pavon did what he has done during most of his time with the Galaxy: be a standout player in the midst of a poor team performance.
Pavon led the team with the most successful dribbles and was able to create chances on goal. Pavon was able to get his signature cut inside and shot on goal, but in the end, was unable to add to his remarkable season of goal contributions.
He also netted an 84% pass success rate, which was a big improvement from his previous matches. The prospect of Pavon remaining with the Galaxy remains bleak, but he can hold his head high knowing that he was easily the Galaxy’s best player in 2020.
Another player who’s time remains uncertain with the club is Yony Gonzalez. Gonzalez had an impressive first half as his aggressive play led to a few goal scoring chances including two shots on target.
Unfortunately, his time was cut short when he was subbed off in the 44th minute to account for the defensive absence created by Julian Araujo’s red card. Gonzalez looked visibly upset as he walked off the field as he was denied an opportunity to put his stamp on the game.
Gonzalez’s play in this match was a reflection of his time since joining the team as he showed some promise yet was never fully able to hit his stride.
Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez once again started the match on the bench as he was still expected to have his minutes limited due to injury recovery. Hernandez looked to be revitalized after scoring in his first match since the MLS restart earlier in the week. His best opportunity came in the 75th minute when he took a free-kick that forced Vancouver goalkeeper Evan Bush to make a diving save.
In the end, Hernandez was inserted into a match in which the Galaxy had to fight an uphill battle, but he managed to still show signs of the player the Galaxy have been expecting to show up this season.
Sacha Kljestan has been an outspoken leader for the LA Galaxy this season and was able to end his season with some positives as he was subbed on in the 55th minute.
Kljestan won several duels in the midfield and almost opened his regular-season scoring account with the Galaxy after launching a blistering shot from outside of the box that pinged off the crossbar.
There weren’t many players this season who looked to being “playing for the crest”, but there was no question about what it meant to Kljestan in the way he hustled on the field and how he took accountability off the field. The Galaxy would benefit from keeping Kljestan within the organization for 2021.
It has been mentioned in several recaps throughout the year that Julian Araujo had a breakout season with the LA Galaxy, cementing his starting role on the right side of the defense. And while Araujo may go on to win defensive player of the year honors with the club, he highlighted in this match an area of concern.
Araujo’s biggest enemy is himself as he continues to find it difficult to stay on the field. Araujo earned his second red card of the season when he was sent off for a reckless challenge on the Whitecaps’ Cristian Gutierrez. It was noted on the broadcast that there was likely no intent to injure Gutierrez, but Araujo could have done better to pull back from the challenge, especially after he had already clearly been first to the ball.
The unfortunate part of the sending off is that Araujo was having a decent match up until that point. Araujo was able to make several key passes with his contributions into the attack.
Araujo is still a player with tons of promise and his speed and power will be great attributes when he can learn how to harness them during the most opportune moments.
Another start for Ethan Zubak and another match with very little to show from it. Zubak had only 15 touches in the 45 minutes he was given and other attackers look to occupying the space of the striker when moving forward, showing a lack of trust to involve Zubak in the offense.
The LA Galaxy will need to prioritize acquiring a second striker in the off-season to backfill for Hernandez.
Below you can find all player grades plus their per game average rating.