The LA Galaxy fell on the road 3-1 to the Portland Timbers in a game that saw Video Assistant Referee (VAR) make its league debut and saw a change in momentum as the result of VAR that influenced the rest of the match.
Galaxy head coach Sigi Schmid was in charge for just his second game since taking over for Curt Onalfo and named a lineup that was short of Jelle Van Damme (Suspended) and Romain Alessandrini (Left Knee Irritation). Alessandrini did travel with the club so it’s likely that Schmid thought he would be a game-time decision and opted not to play him.
Dave Romney got the start in place of Van Damme and Jack McInerney, making his 100th career MLS start, played for the first time since July 4, 2017, in a 6-2 loss to Real Salt Lake.
But the Galaxy would fall into a familiar pattern when they allowed Portland to get on the board first after a corner kick sent in by David Guzmán somehow bounced inside the box and was headed home by Liam Ridgewell who had beaten Daniel Steres to the back post.
It was another example of defenders switching off in important situations — something the suspended Van Damme has been very guilty of throughout the season. And it allowed the Timbers to take a lead just five minutes into the match.
But in true Galaxy form – meaning you never know what to expect from this club – João Pedro, after almost getting stripped of the ball in the midfield, found Emmanuel Boateng streaking down the right-hand side of the field. Boateng gathered the ball and cut inside where he was able to finish past Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson only 80 seconds after the Timbers scored.
The real turning point of the match was, oddly enough, after the Galaxy scored their second goal of the match.
Gyasi Zardes was the unlucky recipient of one of the first VAR reviews to pull a goal back. And it was probably a master class in exactly why VAR was implemented into the league.
The Galaxy were awarded a free kick outside of the Timbers’ box in the 10th minute. Giovani Dos Santos sent in the ball toward the back post and Jermaine Jones who headed the ball out towards Boateng. Boateng headed it into the fray where Zardes found himself in a scrum and the ball was directed down to his feet where he scored.
During the subsequent celebration, and in accordance with the rules dictating the specific use of VAR, head referee Drew Fischer was notified by the VAR official that something had been spotted in the goal that warranted his review. Fischer jogged to the goal line and reviewed the play from his monitor before coming out to the spot of the infraction and signaling that an infraction had occurred and that the goal would be disallowed.
Specifically, it was pointed out that Zardes, perhaps in an attempt to shield his face from an onrushing Timbers goalkeeper, had used his hands to guide the ball toward his feet. He then kicked the ball into the back of the net. But VAR got the call 100 percent correct.
9:51 Free Kick is taken by Giovani dos Santos
9:57 Gyasi Zardes scores the goal
Galaxy celebrate the Goal
11:05 Head Referee Drew Fischer indicates that there will be a video review (VAR)
11:58 Fischer waves off the goal and issues a yellow card to Gyasi Zardes
12:32 Play resumes
The result was a goal taken away from the Galaxy, confidence taken away from a struggling scorer, and a change in momentum that never seemed to leave the Timbers after that.
Diego Valeri would score in the 33rd-minute when a long ball by Roy Miller would be brought down right behind Jones who did his best to get on the end of the ball but failed to accurately understand the gravity of the position he had put himself in. His miss, allowed Valeri to turn around in front of the Galaxy’s back four where Steres was too slow to close down his space. Valeri’s right footed shot from 22-yards out, caught Rowe leaning toward the back post. The ball instead, rocketed to the near post where it nearly took the net off as it lasered past an outstretched Rowe.
The home team would add one more goal in the second half (53′) when Fanendo Adi, who really pushed the Galaxy back line around on the day, backheeled a beautiful ball to Alvas Powell. Powell, on the overlap, hit a rocket to the far post on a harsh angle that tucked just inside the post and ultimately put the game out of reach.
Unfortunately, Adi would have to come out of the game as he injured himself on the back heel.
Not even the debut of Jonathan dos Santos, the Galaxy’s newest Designated Player signing, could help fix things. Jonathan dos Santos entered in the 64th-minute of the match for McInerney and Schmid shifted the Galaxy’s formation into a 3-5-2 of some sort in order to get more offensive pressure going forward.
That moved Jones to a center back position with Romney and Steres flanking him on either side. Pele Van Anholt, making just his second Galaxy start, and Ashley Cole were given the green light to attack into the midfield while the Dos Santos Brothers attempted to provide for an offensive spark in the midfield.
The makeshift formation never produced the results that the Galaxy needed and playing from behind – they’ve now allowed the first goal in 14 games (2-10-2) – is something that can’t continue if this team is going to make any late season run at the playoffs. In fact they only managed a single shot on goal the entire 90-minutes.
Speaking of the playoffs, the Galaxy sits a full 9 points behind the San Jose Earthquakes for the sixth and final playoff spot with just 12 games left in the season. Meaning the Galaxy are going to have to start getting hot if they have any shot at reaching the post-season. Something they haven’t missed in the previous eight years.
With Alessandrini and Van Damme missing this game, the Galaxy didn’t have a first choice lineup out there. But it was better than it has been. Alessandrini’s creativity and ball movement was sorely missing and Van Damme’s ability to physically mark players like the Timbers’ Adi was also absent.
The club will next host New York City FC on Saturday, August 12, 2017 (8 PM, ESPN 2), as they look to snap a 128-day streak (4 months, 6 days) that hasn’t seen them win a game at StubHub Center since beating the Monreal Impact back on April 7, 2017.
Time is quickly running out, and the Galaxy are rightly finding themselves to be one of the worst teams in MLS on the year (19 of 22 teams). Can anything really help the club at this point? Is Jonathan dos Santos the answer? Or are the Galaxy simply in need of a proven goal scorer?
Those answers probably won’t come quickly. And unfortunately for Galaxy fans, it’s almost time to start using the term “next year” whenever you mention the club.