Early PK sees LA edge out Real Salt Lake

Another week, another rag-tag lineup in LA. Playing for a meager midweek crowd,1 the hastily assembled home side managed to get a result against a Real Salt Lake team that appears to have run out of ideas.

LA’s movement looked smart from the start. Barely a minute into play, Alan Gordon sprung Juninho at the top of RSL’s penalty area. Juninho laid the ball off to Ignacio Maganto on the wing, who sent a sizzling cross to the far post — where Alan Gordon was a single Alan-Gordon-length hair too late to finish it.

Minutes later the Galaxy’s relentless attack paid off, though perhaps not as they expected. Jose Villareal found Maganto on the wing — dangerously open, once again — and when RSL’s defender Jámison Olave slid to stop him, his hand hit the ball. Juninho took the penalty and put the home side up 1-nil, tallying his first goal since the 2014 playoffs.

The Galaxy made up for their quick start with a slew of defensive fouls. Husidic drew a yellow for trading slaps with an RSL defender. And Alan Gordon made a great case for never giving him the captain’s armband — after whiffing a shot well over the goal, Gordon argued for a corner kick. When referee Baldomero Toledo refused to grant it, Gordon bumped into him. That yellow card came out quick.

But LA’s defense absorbed the pressure. By halftime Real Salt Lake was struggling to put together anything resembling an attack — and the Galaxy’s patchwork lineup looked set for a win.

Let’s talk about that lineup. In the face of injuries (most notably Robbie Keane’s groin strain but also, this week, Stefan Ishizaki’s stomach virus) the Galaxy have been forced to field a rather creative lineup. It’s not a great situation to be in, but there is an upside: it gives second-string players a chance to shine.

Ignacio Maganto was the one shinin’ tonight. The 2015 draft pick consistently found space where there shouldn’t be any, sending dangerous balls across RSL’s goalmouth. He skied a couple, but his movement off the ball was impeccable — albeit against a Salt Lake defense that was a step behind all night.

Edson Buddle replaced Alan Gordon in the 74th minute, giving me a chance to talk about Gordon. The man’s been a rock during difficult times for the Galaxy. Keane’s absence left a vacuum at the top, and Alan Gordon got sucked in — transformed from late-game pinch-hitting substitution to a starting striker.

Yet somehow, unbelievably, “Gordo” has managed to continue to win games, even and especially when his teammates don’t really deserve it. You worry that the rest of the team is going to forget how to play with forwards that can’t win every header. But the return of Robbie Keane — who got in a healthy 45 minutes tonight — will help.

Omar Gonzalez made the play of the game in the 84th minute. Sebastian Jaime beat Baggio Husidic and squared a lethal short pass across the six-yard box — or he would have, had Omar not slid in and blocked it. The accompanying thunk of the ball was probably louder than the crowd had been all night.

And that was that, as far as theatrics go. Sure, in the dying moments of the match Jámison Olave drew a red for knocking Robbie Keane in the jaw.2 And sure, Jaime Penedo had to make a handful of stops in the second half.3 But RSL rarely managed to look dangerous, and the home team saw the game to its sputtering conclusion.

It wasn’t beautiful, but it was a win — and right now, for the Galaxy, that’s enough.

  1. The announced attendance of 13,391 was optimistic, bordering on delusional.
  2. Count on an appeal for that one.
  3. If falling on a rolling ball counts.