Steve Carrillo

Galaxy, led by Antuna, get dominating victory over Minnesota

CARSON, Calif. — It was a perfect night at Dignity Health Sports Park. The temperature was mild, the grass low and tight, and the LA Galaxy were scoring goals without two of their most effective DP’s — Romain Alessandrini (hamstring) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (achilles). 

And with a possession rate that hovered above 60-percent for most of the game and ended in a 3-2 victory over visiting, and undefeated, Minnesota United (2-1-0), the Galaxy were as dominate as any team could be while still squeaking out a win. A fact that will need to be improved on as this young season progresses. 

The Galaxy, under the tutelage of Guillermo Barros Schelotto, sprinted out of the gates in a new-look 4-3-3 that highlighted 21-year-old Uriel Antuna at the middle of an attacking formation. Alongside Antuna, the Galaxy staged Chris Pontius and Emmanuel Boateng and backed him up with a midfield of Jonathan dos Santos, Sebastian Lletget, and Joe Corona.

The result was an offensive and passing onslaught that saw the Galaxy look for 575 passes, launch seven of their twenty shots on target, and saw goals from dos Santos, Pontius, and Lletget – each one scoring for the first time on the season. 

But it was Antuna who turned out to be the Galaxy’s best player on the night. And with only an assist to show for it in the boxscore, he would be robbed of anything short of the Man of the Match award. His speed unnerved the Minnesota defense and drew the Galaxy forward where they were intercepting passes and launching buildups and counter attacks on a frightening clip. 

And it was Antuna who was eventually fouled in the box by Minnesota’s Osvaldo Alonso to allow for dos Santos’ Penalty kick goal in the 36-minute. That made the score 1-0 and saw the Galaxy score the first goal in a game for the first time in 2019. 

“He was a machine for us,” Pontius told reporters after the game. “Even in the 90-minute, he’s going and pressuring the goalkeeper and helps create the third goal. Just a guy that was showing up in spots we needed him to, running into channels. He was unbelievable.”

The second goal of the night came off a string of 25 consecutive passes that ate up a minute of the game clock and only ended when Pontius found Boateng who then slotted to Rolf Feltscher outside on the right flank. Then Pontius curled behind Antuna to chest the ball into the back of the net. If it reads scattered or confusing it was anything but. It was soccer to near perfection.

“We created a lot of problems because we were inside, we were outside, we were making them guess as to where we were going to pop,” Pontius explained. “And I know that Ema (Boateng) played me the ball. I played it back to him. Out to Rolf (Feltscher) — they didn’t even see Rolf out there so he was free — and he takes a good touch, sets himself up, and then I’m just making the near-post run, and he put it right on my chest.”

It was Pontius’ first goal since July of 2018 when he scored twice away to New England and it was his first goal since returning from a hernia surgery that took him out of the Galaxy’s stretch run to close out last season. And it had the Galaxy up by two goals in the 41-minute. 

With halftime in the books, the Galaxy seemed well on their way to an easy victory. Even Schelotto seemed convinced the club had played some of its best soccer of the year. 

“I think that at half-time I talked with the players and said this 45 minutes was perfect,” Schelotto said. “Because we scored twice, and we keep the ball, we play good on offense and Minnesota couldn’t do anything during the game.”

But that would change over the course of the next 45-minutes of soccer. 

Minnesota would score on an ambitious shot from midfielder Jan Gregus in the 75-minute on a ball that Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham would surely like back. While the ball was likely knuckling and dodging from outside the box, it was fumbled into the back of the net giving Minnesota some brief hope of a draw. 

Lletget would crush that belief momentarily when he got his goal just six minutes later after a superb interception and run before passing the ball wide right to Antuna. Antuna would sprint to the touchline before crossing back to Lletget for the finish. 

But the Galaxy would cough up, what would eventually be, an inconsequential goal in the 87-minute as a header by Angelo Rodriguez would pull the game back to within a goal. The error coming from Skjelvik’s bad ball handling, but was put away by a solid cross and a timely finish. 

The final whistle of the game came nearly five minutes into stoppage time and blew to an end some scary last moments for the Galaxy. 

But ultimately the domination was complete with the Galaxy collecting their most promising victory of the young season.