Carson, CA – The LA Galaxy trailed by a goal twice during the game but they somehow found a way to come back – in stoppage time – against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday night for a 2-2 draw. And if it wasn’t for a stellar performance from Galaxy playmaker Romain Alessandrini, the night could have been another home disaster for a team that hasn’t exactly impressed their fans at StubHub Center.
For the Galaxy, they somehow crafted a starting lineup that covered every position. Surprising only because the team was missing eight players for a multitude of reasons – Jelle Van Damme (Suspension), Giovani dos Santos (INTL Duty), Sebastian Lletget (injured), Jermaine Jones (injured), Bradley Diallo (injured), Brian Rowe (injured), Baggio Husidic (injured), Daniel Steres (injured) – and only dressed 17 players of a maximum of 18 (something I can’t remember them ever doing). There were no defenders on the bench when the game started.
“There’s no two ways about it, we had a depleted team tonight.” Galaxy Head Coach Curt Onalfo mentioned after the game. “We weren’t even able to field 18 players, we fielded 17. So we were definitely depleted, we certainly had some youth on the field.”
The Dynamo opened the scoring in the 22nd-minute when Demarcus Beasley launched a shot from about 30 yards out toward Galaxy goalkeeper Clement Diop. Diop did well to save the dipping and extremely hard hit shot, but his rebound pushed the ball back up the middle and into the path of Houston’s Mauro Manotas. Manotas easily struck the ball into the net to put the visitors up early.
The Galaxy has allowed the first goal in nine of 14 games and has a record of 2-5-2 in those games. Chasing the game is nothing new, but it should be seen as a disturbing trend that can’t continue to be tested.
Alessandrini wasn’t to be deterred, however. Despite the Galaxy getting very little positive play from the midfield pairing of Rafa Garcia and João Pedro, and almost nothing from Gyasi Zardes – who was positioned out on the right wing instead of up top for this game – they did find some room going forward thanks to a hustle play between Emmanuel Boateng and Alessandrini in the 35th-minute.
The ball was quickly played to Alessandrini’s feet who drew three Dynamo defenders before turning and finding Boateng up the left side. Alessandrini had his back to the goal and Boateng almost the entire play but was still able to spring the speedy left winger toward the goal. Boateng ran right at Dynamo goalkeeper Tyler Deric with AJ DeLaGarza giving chase. But just before he reached the top of the box, Boateng rounded Deric and slotted home before the Dynamo defenders, giving chase, could cut the angle.
“When [Romain] had the ball he had his back turned to me.” Boateng told reporters after the game. “I didn’t think he saw me. I just kept yelling and hoping he would hit it on time and he just put it right where I needed it.”
The goal was a testament to the two hardest working players on the field on the night. But it was also indicative of a team that was better on the counter attack than with possession in their own stadium. It was also the only attacking chance the Galaxy created in the opening 45-minutes.
It was also the first goal for Boateng against a team not named Real Salt Lake.
Jack McInerney who started for the Galaxy up top, was not a good option for the offense and both he and Zardes did little to relieve pressure off of the backline. They simply couldn’t hold enough possession.
“It’s like a win. We have to win now at home because it’s the most important with the fans. We’ve done good on the road, but we have to take points at home. Everybody gave everything on the field and that was very good for us.” Romain Alessandrini, LA Galaxy Midfielder
Nathan Smith, playing at right back because of an injury to Bradley Diallo (Hamstring), was under constant attack and Zardes, playing in front of him, did little to slow down the Dynamo pressure.
But with a halftime score of 1-1 and a game that was desperately lacking any type of passing quality from either side, it almost looked like a draw was inevitable.
The Galaxy subbed in Jose Villarreal in the 60th-minute for a totally ineffective McInerney. Villarreal would find himself on the wrong end of possession as he carelessly ceded the ball to the Dynamo and watched them quickly counter. The Dynamo’s Alberth Elis was faster than any Galaxy player and put the ball past Diop to put the visitors ahead once again.
The Galaxy would hit the crossbar in the 85th-minute thanks to a header from substitute Ariel Lassiter but looked like they had given the Dynamo their first road win of the season (0-6-2).
Finally, in the fourth minute of six minutes of additional time, after a ball that had bounced around inside the box, Bradford Jamieson hit a low cross from the right side toward a streaking Villarreal. The ball skidded past Villarreal and onto the boot of, who else but, Alessandrini. Alessandrini buried it into the back of the net for the draw. But the play wasn’t without controversy.
Alessandrini, on the replay, looked to have been offside by at least a head and probably a torso when Jamieson played the ball in. The assistant referee and the center official had a quick chat – more than likely discussing whether or not Villareal had touched the ball on the way through – and then allowed the goal.
When asked about his positioning and whether or not he thought he was offside, Alessandrini answered honestly. “I don’t know. Maybe? But we don’t care.”
For the Galaxy, Alessandrini has been involved in most of the Galaxy’s offense this season. He leads the team in goals and assists (both with 6) and has drawn at least one PK and caused the own goal game-winner against Minnesota. Paired with the speedy Boateng, both players have done everything that has been asked of them this season and more.
And they’ll need “more” when it comes to a ridiculously busy schedule that sees the Galaxy playing 10 games in the span of 38 days (two of those games have been played already). The club will travel to Colorado to face the Rapids on Wednesday and then back home to face Sporting Kansas City a week from today.
The hardest work isn’t even close to being done, but both Alessandrini and Boateng will be key to any success they find.
HOU – Mauro Manotas 22’
LA – Emmanuel Boateng 35’ (Assisted by Romain Alessandrini)
HOU – Alberth Elis 74’ (Assisted by Boniek Garcia)