The LA Galaxy drew 3-3 with Real Salt Lake in a wild, playoff-like game that was entertaining, but ultimately disappointing and deflating. LA, behind 2 goals and an assist from Giovani dos Santos, one of his better games of the year, allowed 2 late goals, the final in the fourth minute of stoppage time, to walk away with a single point.
With injury issues still very prevalent, the Galaxy were able to patch together a lineup that not only competed, but pushed a very good and rested Real Salt Lake team to the brink of their first home defeat of the season.
Sebastian Lletget reprised his role in the center of midfield, but in a surprise, Baggio Husidic was pushed out wide on the wing in place of Raul Mendiola. Giovani dos Santos played under Alan Gordon and defensively, Leonardo made a return to the lineup in the center back position pairing with Daniel Steres. Robbie Rogers made his third consecutive start at right back since coming back from injury, and Brian Rowe stood between the posts.
The night started off with a bang for the LA. On the road, in a tough environment — a notoriously hard field and at altitude — a poor defensive effort from the Galaxy quickly turned to a promising counter attack. An outlet pass from Baggio Husidic found Giovani dos Santos who deked a pass to Alan Gordon, spun, and placed a perfect through ball to a streaking Emmanuel Boateng. Boateng raced past Jámison Olave, who would eventually find himself beaten on every LA Galaxy goal on the night, placed himself toward the center of the penalty box and calmly finished with his right foot past Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando. LA had scored just six minutes into the game.
And despite dominating Real Salt Lake possession, as to be expected in a road game where the LA Galaxy were defensively positioned, halftime came with LA remaining up by a single goal.
But in the second half, with Real Salt Lake struggling to put passes together and the Galaxy doing a good job to defend and frustrate them, a ghastly mistake was the first sign that Brian Rowe wasn’t going to have a good night. With a ball headed up and away from danger, and Rowe surrounding it with his body and killing time, the never-say-die attitude of Joao Plata was able to surprise the Galaxy ‘keeper and push the ball away. In a panic move, the panic entirely created by Rowe’s lack of awareness on the play, he dove toward the feet of Plata and fouled him in the box for a penalty kick.
Plata stepped up and slotted the ball down the middle past Rowe and tied the game up 1-1 in the 53rd minute.
But as quickly as Real Salt Lake had tied the game, the LA Galaxy came storming back. Giovani dos Santos scored his first of two goals on the night when Baggio Husidic picked him out with a beautiful ball over the top. Dos Santos faded toward his left foot and then snuck the ball under Rimando, who was able to get a piece of the ball but not stop it.
Just seven minutes later, Dos Santos would score again. Sebastian Lleget gathered the ball on the right side of the box and with no room to turn, created space, and fired a cross off that found Alan Gordon, fading away from goal. His header was found by Jeff Larentowicz whose quick strike off the half-volley crashed off the underside of the crossbar. The rebound bounced straight out where Dos Santos buried it for the Galaxy’s third goal on the night and had the visitors up by two with 26 minutes left to play.
But RSL wasn’t done on the night. They struck for a goal in the 67th minute, thanks to some lax defending and a great strike by Plata for his second on the night. Leonardo and Daniel Steres both allowed the ball to be played into Yura Movsysian, who was able to send it back to Plata who buried the shot into the upper ninety.
The final goal for Real Salt Lake came on another howler from Brian Rowe. Deep into four minutes of stoppage time, and following a chance from Mike Magee to put the game away — a chance that saw Magee, a second half sub, kick the ball right into Nick Rimando — Juan Manuel “Burrito” Martinez scored on a relatively innocuous shot from outside the box. The ball skidded toward the back post and somehow found it’s way under Rowe.
By all accounts, it was a ball that should’ve been easily saved. And with his earlier mistake and mental lapse, it was one he couldn’t afford to make.
Brian Rowe has played in 25 games for the LA Galaxy this year and has generally played outstanding. He’s amassed over 2,200 minutes and has seven shutouts this year while making 99 saves. But all of those stats won’t make the LA Galaxy feel any better.
He was absolutely at fault for two of RSL’s three goals tonight. Even Bruce Arena couldn’t dismiss his contribution to LA’s draw. Arena, speaking to reporters after the game said, “He (Rowe) has had better games, for sure.”
His two glaring mistakes are reminiscent of another big mistake he made when the LA Galaxy lost in Montreal, on a last second free kick from Didier Drogba. That ball was shot from close to thirty yards out. And that goal, just like the game-tying one tonight, went through Rowe’s hands costing the LA Galaxy valuable points.
We walk away with a point when we should be going away with three. And it is not an easy game, our guys worked real hard, it’s a shame that they didn’t reward themselves with the three points.” Bruce Arena, LA Galaxy Head Coach
The LA Galaxy and Brian Rowe will have to recover quickly from tonight’s disappointment. They host Orlando City, who are coming off a 4-1 victory over the Montreal Impact, on Sunday afternoon at StubHub Center in what should be another exhausting encounter.
MAN OF THE MATCH
This is one of the easier decisions on the night. Although a large portion of the LA Galaxy team played well for the majority of the game, Giovani dos Santos stood out as an example of what the Galaxy needed on the night. Dos Santos tracked back and played defense on multiple occasions in the first half — one of which was a tackle he made on his own touchline.
But he finished the night with two goals and one assist and was ever present in the Galaxy’s limited attack. He finished the chances he was given, which is more than you can say for other players over the last month or so.
But it also raises the question: “Why don’t the Galaxy get this performance out of Dos Santos every game?” It’s a fair criticism. But he’s also playing in his preferred position and without the distraction of Robbie Keane. And when Keane and Dos Santos are on the field, they clash in positioning and attitude. Perhaps this is just another glimpse into the future of Galaxy team that could be permanently without Captain Robbie Keane.
SIX GAMES LEFT
The LA Galaxy are tied for second place in the Western Conference with Real Salt Lake. And they sit just seven points off of FC Dallas and first place. They’ll get a chance to play Dallas twice in the remaining six games — once at home and once away — and that could position them for a top two spot in the conference and a first-round bye.
It would also be wise for the Galaxy, who haven’t been defeated at home all year, to get as many home games as possible and to try and avoid the play-in game between the fifth and sixth place teams in each conference.
Jelle Van Damme (Left MCL Sprain), Steven Gerrard (Hamstring), and Robbie Keane all failed to travel with the team to Real Salt Lake. Van Damme and Gerrard both have verified injuries and Robbie Keane is suspected to be working through an injury as well.
Also missing for the rest of the season is Gyasi Zardes (Broken Foot).
QUOTE OF THE MATCH
On how to change the team’s mentality:
“We will write it down on a piece of paper, they have been through this enough this year. They should have it right, we are in the 28th game of the season, they should not be able to receive this point.” Bruce Arena, LA Galaxy Head Coach
LA – Emmanuel Boateng (Assisted by Giovani dos Santos) 7’
RSL – Joao Plata (penalty) 53’
LA – Giovani dos Santos (Assisted by Baggio Husidic) 58’
LA – Giovani dos Santos 64’
RSL – Joao Plata (Assisted by Yura Movsisyan, Tony Beltran) 67’
RSL – Juan Manuel Martínez (Assisted By: Joao Plata) 90’+4’