Carson, CA — The LA Galaxy started the season off with a bang! Something they rarely accomplished throughout the entire 2017 season. Behind goals from Ola Kamara (32′) and Romain Alessandrini (34′), the club was able to defeat the Portland Timbers 2-1 at StubHub Center in front of a sell-out crowd of 25,462 on Sunday night.
Through a busy offseason, the Galaxy replaced nearly half the lineup – sending 15-players away from the club, and adding 13 others – in hopes of improving on their last-place finish. But on Sunday night, they got something they managed to only accomplish three times in the previous season – they won at home.
The Galaxy went 3-9-5 at home last season, en route to an 8-18-8 regular season.
Galaxy Captain, Ashley Cole, was more than pleased with the result.
“I think we’ve worked hard in preseason,” Cole told reporters after the game. “It’s always nice to win. I think we grinded it out in the end. Which is, I think, a good thing.
“We played well in the first half – second half a little little bit sloppy.”
The Galaxy did dominate the opening 45-minutes. creating multiple chances and burying two in the back of the net.
Kamara opened the scoring after a successful attack from Ema Boateng – who was one of the best players on the field for the Galaxy – was cleared out. The ball found it’s way to midfielder Jonathan dos Santos who sent the ball across the box to defender Rolf Feltscher. Feltscher got his head on the end of it and sent the ball in the direction of Kamara who chested the ball into the back of the net in the 32-minute.
This play coming at a time of multiple chances and a string of great passes that was continuously opening up the Timbers defense.
“A little bit before that, Ema got the ball. I made a movement and I was just a little bit too late to flick it in,” Kamara explained. “I kept with the play. I kept moving. And then when Rolf headed it, I knew it was coming in towards me, and then I chested the ball in. It was a good feeling to seeing the ball going into the net.”
“It was a good feeling seeing the ball going into the net.”
Just two minutes later, another run from Boateng created another dangerous scoring opportunity. And while the ball was momentarily cleared by the Timbers, Alessandrini was able to play off the hip of the Liam Ridgewell and sent a shot that ricocheted off the right post. The ball came straight back to Alessandrini who then buried the final shot for a 2-0 lead.
And while the halftime lead was a just result from a somewhat frantic first 45-minutes, it was also a frustrating night on many levels, as chance after chance couldn’t extend the Galaxy’s advantage.
In the 50-minute Boateng missed a wide open chance, followed shortly by a quick counter-attack from Giovani dos Santos in the 51-minute. Both key opportunities for the Galaxy to extend their lead. Both left wanting.
Both Boateng and Giovani dos Santos would see other opportunities to score go by the wayside, and both Galaxy Head Coach Sigi Schmid and the players themselves would lament those missed opportunities.
And momentum really took a swing when the Galaxy’s returning team MVP, Alessandrini, pulled short after trying to race up the field on a quick strike, holding his right leg. Speculation puts it as a hamstring injury and something that the Galaxy didn’t have an update on by the game’s conclusion. But any extended time he misses will be a big blow to a Galaxy team that depends on his inclusion.
Midfielder Chris Pontius would enter the game for Alessandrini but the Timbers would grab a goal back before too long.
In the 66-minute, Sebastián Blanco tore through the Galaxy’s defense and ended up beating Feltscher to the touchline. From an acute angle, his shot went through the legs of Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham and into the back of the net.
It wasn’t Bingham’s best save, but he was only tested on a few shots and came up with a steadying hand on the rest. The goal coming predominately from Blanco’s proximity and less from an error in positioning, as seen in the preseason.
The remaining 34-minutes would see the Galaxy struggle to hold on but also learn that the comeback of Sebastian Lletget is nearing completion.
Lletget subbed in for Giovani dos Santos, who had a rather lackluster performance on the night, in the 72-minute.
In turn, Lletget’s speed and skill-set quickly turned the Galaxy into another dangerous weapon on the quick counter-attack. But they missed on a couple of chances down the stretch and saw the Timbers dodge a clear penalty in the waning minutes of the game when Lletget was brought down from behind.
“I thought it was a clear penalty,” Lletget laughed. “I felt it. I didn’t even really look up because I thought he was going to call it. I think we were all a little shocked.”
But as the final whistle blew, the Galaxy jumped to the top of a table – joining other teams who had also won their season opener.
“I know sometimes it looked a little perilous in the back there,” Schmid said in his post-game press conference. “But that doesn’t matter to me.
“We also had enough opportunity at the other end to score another four or five. So, It’s still about finishing those chances, making good use of them. I was happy with our team effort, our willingness to battle for each other and play for each other. I thought was outstanding.”
If you expect the Galaxy to get carried away with their success, they won’t. Cole and Schmid will make certain of that. But there are plenty of good things to take away from this game. Perhaps none more important than pure reluctance to give up.
“We fought,” Cole said. “All the lads gave everything and we came away with a win. We’re not going to get too carried away [it’s the] first game of the season, but three points on the board.”