The LA Galaxy (6-13-5) are in the midst of a nine game winless streak (0-8-1) and have lost three games in a row after a 2-0 road loss to the Columbus Crew. Looking at the scoreline, it might seem like a simple game without much drama. But on any night where you get four Video Assistant Referee (VAR) reviews, and two saved penalty kicks there’s more to it than just numbers.
To start, the Galaxy fielded a team devoid of many of their usual starters and high priced talents. Giovani dos Santos (Hamstring), and Jermaine Jones (Toe) didn’t travel with the team and Romain Alessandrini (Knee) started the game on the bench. This meant that over $8 million was either on the bench or back in Los Angeles for the start of the game.
Brian Rowe was replaced by Jon Kempin on the night in a move the club confirmed was a “coaches decision” and not injury related. Clement Diop backed up Kempin for the game meaning that Brian Rowe didn’t even travel with the club.
Bradford Jamieson slotted in for Alessandrini getting just his third start of the year but his 14th appearance on the season and Rafa Garcia slotted into the defensive midfielder role for Jones and earned his first start in a month.
Things would go quickly sideways for the Galaxy as perhaps the most controversial call of the night went against them.
In the 16th-minute of the match, Galaxy Captain Ashley Cole went in for a challenge on a streaking Pedro Santos of the Crew. Santos was just about to reach the top of the box when he was fouled by Cole and a free kick was awarded.
Sorin Stoica, the Referee for the match, correctly spotted the foul outside the box but then it looked as if he was getting some input from either the VAR official, Hilario Grajeda, or from Assistant Referee Craig Lowry. Stoica pulled out a red card and issued it to Cole.
Before it was all over, Stoica confirmed the call on the VAR monitor — although it was done very quickly — and proceeded to award the free kick to the Crew.
Watching many replays, it would be difficult for anyone to conclude that the Red Card was warranted. Unless the referee decided that Cole made a challenge without going for the ball in a Denial of a Goal Scoring Opportunity (DOGSO), there doesn’t seem to be enough contact and it wasn’t from behind. Even in a cynical view of play a yellow card would be deemed harsh.
But the most head-scratching part is that apparently the call was confirmed by VAR. Play was stopped. The referee went to his monitor and confirmed what he saw.
The night would see three other VAR reviews. With all four of the calls going against the Galaxy (three of them being ruled correctly).
Even one play where João Pedro was deemed to have been offside on a header by Daniel Steres. Multiple reviews of that play are totally inconclusive and it’s almost certain that the VAR official had a more definitive angle as it took photogrammetry and the wonderful @offsidemodeling to confirm that Pedro did indeed redirect the ball.
So instead of having a one-goal lead and being down to ten players, the Galaxy were knotted at zero and still playing down a man.
It was always going to be an uphill battle once the Galaxy lost Cole, but if not for the straight up heroics of Kempin, the scoreline would look a lot more tilted.
Not once, but twice Kempin made Penalty Kick saves on the Crew to keep the Galaxy in the game. He did it to the Crew’s Federico Higuain in the first half and then doubled his stats with another penalty save against Ola Kamara when his club was already down a goal. He became just the fifth goalkeeper in league history to save two penalty kicks in the same game and the first to do it in a loss.
GOALKEEPERS TO HAVE MADE 2 PK SAVES IN A GAME
Tony Meola (Kansas City) – 8.10.2002
D.J. Countess (Dallas) – 10.11.2003
David Ousted (New England) – 6.20.2015
Bobby Shuttleworth (New England) – 3.20.2016
Jon Kempin (LA Galaxy) – 8.23.2017
The crew would score on either side of halftime with Kamara finishing a Santos pass in the 45th-minute and Justin Meram finally finishing off the Galaxy in the 90th-minute. But for most of this game, the Crew were far superior, quicker, and more dangerous.
The Galaxy were woeful at creating chances and they finished without a shot on goal in the game despite lofting five feeble attempts in that general direction. They’re now scoreless in the last 264 minutes and have only scored once since Sigi Schmidt took over – a 3-1 loss to the Portland Timbers.
The need for a competent striker has never been more apparent. With Gyasi Zardes now passing the year mark on the last time he scored a goal for the Galaxy in an MLS game (8.24.2016), an offseason push must be made to rectify the goal scoring issues from the front.
It was a disappointing game in a disappointing season and at no point, except for a short period of time between the 10th and 15th-minute, were the Galaxy ever comfortable in possession or even hinting at any sort of offensive prowess.
The Galaxy are broken and any hopes of a playoff run would need to see them gain more than 16 points from their last 10 games. A tough task for a team that is now averaging less than a point a game (.96 ppg).
The club will quickly fly back to Los Angeles in order to prepare themselves for the final Cali-Clasico of the season when they take on the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday, August 27, 2017, at StubHub Center.