Steve Carrillo

LA Galaxy give up late goal. Unbeaten streak dies in Colorado

It was something new for the LA Galaxy. They scored first.

But in the end, a late goal from the Colorado Rapids (5-12-5) would find the home team collecting all three points in a 2-1 victory that was, in every way, thanks to another poor defensive effort from the Galaxy.

For the Galaxy (10-8-5), playing without a suspended Zlatan Ibrahimovic – the Galaxy’s leading goalscorer – and without Giovani dos Santos – who didn’t travel with the team as a guard against some tightness he felt in the previous match – they also saw their nine-game unbeaten streak fall at the hands of the second-worst team in Major League Soccer.

It’s a story that has repeated itself throughout the season; the Galaxy defense simply can’t hold a lead. And on this particular Saturday night, at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce, Colorado, those defensive breakdowns, and lack of meaningful possession down the stretch, cost the Galaxy the end to their lucky streak.

Midfielder Romain Alessandrini opened the scoring for the Galaxy in the 33-minute when a cross from midfielder Sebastian Lletget, was cleared poorly by Rapids defender Tommy Smith during some miscommunications with defender Korne Ford. Ford looked as if he was going to get to the ball, but pulled his foot back at the last second. Smith’s attempted clearance looked rushed – as if he wasn’t expecting it – and the ball bounced directly to Alessandrini who fired an easy shot from inside the box past Rapids goalkeeper Tim Howard.

The 1-0 lead at halftime was a welcomed sight for a team that has needed to consistently come-from-behind in order to capture points in all four of their previous matches. And the Galaxy had a 6-0-1 record when scoring the first goal and a 3-0-3 record when leading at the break. But that lead wouldn’t survive five minutes into the second half.

That’s when newly acquired midfielder Kellyn Acosta taught the Galaxy a valuable lesson in switching off down the middle of the field.

Galaxy midfielder Jonathan dos Santos attempted to cut off a pass to Acosta as both midfielders were patrolling just outside the center circle of the Galaxy defensive half. Dos Santos lunged for a pass but missed it by quite a bit, and that lunge pulled him well out of the center of the field.

Acosta quickly turned on the pace and gobbled up the acres of space in front of the Galaxy’s Servando Carrasco — who had started in place of Perry Kitchen because of squad rotation. Carrasco’s late pickup, and his inability to alter Acosta’s run set up the 23-year-old’s left-footed shot across the Galaxy’s David Bingham to tie the game.

The shot came from outside the box, but Bingham couldn’t do enough to get down to his left to get a finger on the ball. The shot may have been screened from Bingham, but it all happened much too easily for the likes of the Galaxy.

But the final nail in the coffin came late in the game when a Galaxy team, that had settled in for the point on the road, saw a simple defensive stance go every way but right. And unlike most defensive breakdowns this season, the club had players back in the right formation to keep the Rapids from simply advancing through the defense.

Edgar Castillo got the ball on the left-hand side for the Rapids and advanced it a couple steps before splitting the Galaxy’s Dave Romney and substitute Emmanuel Boateng. Romney seemed to step forward towards Castillo at the exact moment Castillo sent the ball in.

Castillo’s pass found Bismark Boateng on the left side who cut into the box past the Galaxy’s Emmanuel Boateng before sending in a cross behind the retreating Galaxy back line and perfectly into the path of the Rapids’ Sam Nicholson who parked the game-winner past Bingham in the 90-minute.

The Galaxy, for the time being, remain in fourth place in the Western Conference with several teams still to play games and a likelihood they’ll drop down.

But Minnesota United will come to StubHub Center on Saturday (August 11, 7:30 p.m.) followed up quickly by the return of these same Rapids (Tuesday, August 14, 7:30 p.m.). So a chance for more home points is something that is real and palpable.

On the night, however, Galaxy head coach Sigi Schmid might second-guess going with a different formation than he’s played in a while and making the player selections he did. Particularly when it comes to a four-man backline, and only one attacking option in Kamara. While the Galaxy were certainly constructed to play that way from the start of the offseason, it’s something they haven’t tried since their unbeaten streak started after a loss to FC Dallas on May 30.

The Galaxy have just 11 games remaining on their schedule. A number that will rapidly get smaller as they try and secure a playoff position. And only that means only 11 games to try and fix what is apparent to anyone on or off the field — that the Galaxy’s defense isn’t anywhere close to good enough. And that’s despite spending more money than any other team in the league on defensive players.

This loss to the Rapids didn’t start a trend of not being able to hold onto a lead. That trend was highlighted in many games, including the draws to the San Jose Earthquakes and DC United earlier in the year. But it did once again highlight the fact the Galaxy don’t have a defense capable of competing at the highest levels of MLS this season — especially when the lower levels – this Rapids team – give it so many problems.