Brittany Campbell

Letdown in second half scars an otherwise wonderful victory over Union

CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy won’t enjoy re-watching their second-half performance in their 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union (3-3-1) on Saturday night at Dignity Health Sports Park. But they’ll also be pleased with keeping pace in a blistering Western Conference that refuses to drop points.

The Galaxy (5-1-0), thanks to two goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, now continue to sit in third place in both the conference and the league, and are 4-0-0 at home, have won four games in a row, and now have 15 points from their first six games.

That means the 2019 Galaxy are off to their fourth-best start in franchise history — one point behind their starts in 1998 and 2010 and three points behind the perfect start to their inaugural 1996 season.

The club is also riding a 226-minute shutout streak that started after the Galaxy allowed a goal to Portland in the 44th minute of their 2-1 victory on March 31 where they’ve since shutout the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Union in back-to-back games.

Ibrahimovic would start his scoring in the 27th minute when Romain Alessandrini — who had a much-improved performance over his last two games — picked up the ball in the center of the field. He then dribbled into some space before passing the ball to defender Jorgen Skjelvik. Skjelvik would cut to the end line and loft a floated cross in the general direction of Ibrahimovic who would jump over the Union defender Kai Wagner and bury a header past goalkeeper Andre Blake.

Wagner was simply maltreated by Ibrahimovic who was a good six inches taller and much stronger than the man marking him.

And Ibrahimovic wouldn’t allow Wagner to go unscathed in his second goal either.

Ibrahimovic, in the 32nd minute, would launch himself skyward towards another Skjelvik cross. Wagner would put a good body on the six-foot-five Swede, but Auston Trusty – Wagner’s teammate – would undercut Ibrahimovic forcing referee David Gantar to point to the penalty spot.

But Gantar would eventually make his way toward the TV monitor, and it wasn’t until four minutes later that VAR would confirm the call and Ibrahimovic would shoot to Blake’s right for his second goal of the night and his sixth goal of the season.

The Galaxy would add some more close calls towards the end of the first half, but wouldn’t be able to find the back of the net. Even when Joe Corona looked to have added a third goal just before the halftime whistle only to have Ibrahimovic whistled for a foul in the box while scrambling for the ball.

Galaxy head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto would rally the troops at halftime, encouraging them to keep up the pressure. But the Galaxy would get none of the domination they so deserved from the first half performance.

“I don’t really like the second half for us,” Schelotto told reporters after the game. “I think we finished the game in the first half we play really good. We managed the ball, we managed the game, we had the possibility for scoring and we did.

“But in the second half,” he continued, “I talked with the players, and we need to keep going, manage the ball. And I think the game was even, or they (Philadelphia) even played better than us. They never went very deep, but I really don’t like the second half.”

Whereas in the first half Jonathan dos Santos, Sebastian Lletget, and Corona terrorized the Philadelphia midfield, in the second half they conceded space. The first 15 minutes of which saw several dangerous chances. One of which even clipped the goal post before staying out and being cleared.

And even as the Union failed to get a second-half shot on goal, it wasn’t the cleanest of looks from the Galaxy and the club, while they managed the possession well, couldn’t find the third and fourth goals that they wanted.

Ibrahimovic, visibly upset on the field after the game, was a little more measured in his responses in the locker room. But the game left a bad taste in his mouth.

“The first half I think was amazing,” he told reporters. “We had rhythm. We were aggressive. We had possesion. We were direct. The second-half we said at halftime, we go out to kill to score three or four to zero and keep going.

“After two seconds we almost conceded one goal” Ibrahimovic continued. “So either everybody was not on the same side or we just relaxed. And that cannot happen because when you go out and relax you get punished.”

But it wasn’t all about the poor performance in the second half.

Juninho, who rejoined the Galaxy in the offseason, made his 2019 Galaxy debut where he officially played one minute – even though it was one minute and four minutes of added time.

And 17-year-old Julian Araujo was also called into action as Galaxy defender Rolf Feltscher needed to come out of the game with an injury (suspected groin injury) in the 65th minute.

The Galaxy would also finish the game up a man as the Union’s Trusty would receive his second yellow card of the match for a foul on Lletget in the 76th minute.

The Galaxy would come close on a couple more chances with substitute Emmanuel Boateng providing a good spark against a tired Union defense but they couldn’t find Ibrahimovic’s hat trick, and they couldn’t add to the lead.

The first half was “symphonic” as one reporter put to Schelotto. But if the first half was music to his ears, clearly the second half was a college band that hasn’t quite figured out how to play their instruments. At least not yet.