Carson, CA – The LA Galaxy survived on the night without scoring a goal. And while the 1-1 draw probably reflects a fair result, they were bailed out by an 84th minute own goal from Portland Timbers defender Nat Borchers. With only 4 shots on target on the entire evening LA was lucky to be handed the equalizer.
It was another auspicious start to the game for the LA Galaxy. Robbie Rogers needed to subbed off the field in the first 10 minutes after absorbing a collision to his hip. While he was helped of the field and tried to continue, he eventually needed to come off and the only cover for that position was Rafael Garcia. Garcia last appearance for the senior team was in August of last year.
“I saw Robbie go down and I could see he was hurting a little bit, so I knew my number might have been called… It happens where guys take a knock and you’re kind of like, ‘He’ll shake it off.’ But I saw he was hurting. I knew right away I had to be an option.” Rafael Garcia, LA Galaxy Defender
Giovani dos Santos also made his return to the LA Galaxy’s starting lineup after last playing in the first half of the season opener against DC United. And with Robbie Keane on the mend it was the perfect time to see Dos Santos playing that withdrawn striker role we so often see Keane in. Paired with Gyasi Zardes they opened up with a lot of energy, but ultimately match fitness made most of his return nothing to write home about. If he can get healthy he might be able to do more for the LA Galaxy. But that “if” becomes a bigger ask after every injury.
With both teams scoreless at halftime it was going to take something more inventive to break the deadlock. And Portland, who’d be dangerous on the counter attack once or twice in the first half was the first to make a statement.
With Diego Valeri striking out on a quick attack he was able to find an isolated Fanendo Adi. Adi went right after first half sub Rafa Garcia. Garcia may have allowed too much space but he still pushed his player away from goal. But the left footed strike traveled all the way across Brian Rowe before finding the extreme right side netting. It was a picture perfect finish and gave Portland thoughts of three stolen points.
But this game will really only be talked about in one way. And it will be framed with the context of “is Nigel De Jong a dirty player?” Because his tackle on Darlington Nagbe might be cause for every Stu Holden comparison ever made. And maybe that’s fair. In the 73rd minute Nagbe was on the ball coming through the center circle when De Jong attempted to stop him from a quick counterattack. De Jong made an ill-timed stab at the ball but only really connected with Nagbe’s ankle. You’ll see photos and video of it and it’s not pretty.
Exclusive Interview with LA Galaxy’s Nigel De Jong the Day before the Match (Audio)
A yellow card was probably letting De Jong off easy, but in real time I though yellow was the correct call. That being said, in replays, clearly red was deserved. And it will be put to the Disciplinary committee to try and sort out. I’d expect the LA Galaxy are going to be without Nigel De Jong for the next 3 games.
“It was ball that came [to] my way. It was a 50/50. Normally I always have those balls. But I went over the ball, I [caught] the ball a little bit and [caught] most of his (Nagbe) ankle. It was a pity, you know what I mean? It was never my intention to hurt him. He’s a good kid, as well. I said that after the game as well. That’s a pity but that’s football as well. It was never [intentional] and when a ball comes to you in that situation you always go for it 100%. But unfortunately I [caught] him.” Nigel De Jong, LA Galaxy Midfielder
The game tying goal came in the 84th minute after Sebastian Lletget put in a dangerous cross behind the Portland defense. Borchers dove to keep Gyasi Zardes, who was running to the near post behind him, away from the ball. But instead he headed it past Adam Kwarasey and into the back of the net.
Zardes was asked about whether he thought he would get to the the ball and the LA Galaxy striker resounded with “I think I would have, but he hit in the goal for me so I’ll take it.”
Gyasi had a solid night on the offensive side of the ball where I thought he was much more dangerous than when he plays in the midfield. His combination with Dos Santos early sparked a real offensive threat for the LA Galaxy. But with Dos Santos not match fit Zardes suffered for it.
I’d rank Lletget above anyone else on the night. He played with energy and finesse. He created multiple chances and the LA Galaxy offense ultimately wasted every single one. My only criticism is that he will dribble himself into trouble on occasion. And while that won’t hurt the team most of the time, it can. But he is one of the only creative players on the field at times.
“I think he (Lletget) was very aggressive and created some chances for us. He was a handful. He was close to pulling off some plays that could have, perhaps, created a goal. I think overall he had a good game.” Bruce Arena, LA Galaxy Head Coach and General Manager
Bradford Jamieson IV also gets an honorable mention for some good minutes. He came into the game in the 64th minute for Dos Santos and added energy and a spark. He was dangerous and he was close to finding his way on goal multiple times. He needs to start getting more senior team minutes. It’s time for him to develop into a starter or a super sub.
The LA Galaxy have had an okay start to the 2016 season. But with an injury to Robbie Rogers (Hip Contusion) added to the list of other injuries (AJ DeLaGarza, Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard, Leonardo) the LA Galaxy will struggle to find any consistency in early days. The depth will be tested and players like Bradford Jamieson IV will continue to get time. It will be what happens with those chances that may dictate the success or failure for the LA Galaxy.
For his part Bruce Arena isn’t worried. Or if he is, he’s not letting on:
“It’s all part of the game. It happens every year. Sometimes they come quickly, sometimes they’re spread out. It’s all part of it; you’re never going to go without injuries. It’s all part of the game, unfortunately. It’s a part of the game we don’t like, but it’s a part of the game.” Bruce Arena, LA Galaxy Head Coach and General Manager