CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy kept their win-streak intact, and their perfect home record, as they got a late goal from Diego Polenta to beat the Houston Dynamo by a final score of 2-1 on Friday night at Dignity Health Sports Park.
Polenta, who joined the club in the offseason, would take a corner kick in the 88th minute from Jonathan dos Santos and punish the Dynamo severely for their lax defending. Polenta would manhandle former Galaxy player AJ DeLaGarza in the box and beat goalkeeper Joe Willis to the near post to break the deadlock and secure the Galaxy’s three points.
“It was a corner kick in which Jonathan [dos Santos] put in a great cross,” Polenta told reporters. “In reality, it was all to Jonathan’s credit because he put the ball on my head, I only had to push it in.”
It was Polenta’s first goal for the Galaxy and would cap off his best defensive performance of the year. He was a complete player on the night and showed precisely why Galaxy head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto went out and acquired him from a farm in Argentina where he had been taking a break from soccer for the previous six months.
But Polenta wasn’t about to get too high on the performance.
“I think that it was a difficult game against a rival that was undefeated,” he said. “In times we did things well, and in other times we didn’t. The important thing is that we won. It’s always good to fix mistakes by winning games, and we are happy for the victory.”
Polenta’s goal ensured the Galaxy increased their winning streak to five games in a row — a feat they hadn’t matched since their last MLS-Cup-winning season in 2014 (the five-game winning streak also was part of a 10-game unbeaten streak that extended from the end of August to the beginning of October).
The 21,503 in attendance on a cold, damp night, however, witnessed an exciting match that seemed to build as the night went on. It was also the first time the Galaxy (6-1-0) had been stressed to breaking point throughout the 90 minutes of play.
The Dynamo (4-1-1) entered the match undefeated and riding a four-game winning streak — the same winning streak the Galaxy were on. And their play early on indicated they were up to the challenge.
But in the 30th minute, all six-foot-five of Zlatan Ibrahimovic would be bearhugged and dragged to the ground by five-foot-nine DeLaGarza in the penalty box.
Referee Jair Marrufo pointed immediately to the penalty spot where Ibrahimovic would bury his seventh goal of the season and his sixth goal in the last four games and DeLaGarza, because of his arguing, would be issued a yellow card.
The goal puts Ibrahimovic just one goal shy of league-leader Carlos Vela.
The Galaxy would finish off the half with the majority of the momentum and would limit the Dynamo to zero shots on goal. But Houston was also stingy on defense as they only allowed the goal as the only shot on target.
But even as the Galaxy have stressed their second-half performances in recent games, the club came out flat. And Galaxy defender Jorgen Skjelvik, who didn’t have a good game, was forced into a one-on-one situation that would once again raise the awareness of VAR.
Dynamo attacker Alberth Elis would round Skjelvik on the left side of the penalty box where both players made contact. Marrufo, adjuding the foul to have occurred on the line — as indicated to LA-based pool reporters after the game– awarded the penalty to the Dynamo where Elis would convert to the tie the game in the 53rd minute.
The goal was the first allowed by the Galaxy in 279 minutes of play and was the third penalty kick conceded by the club. Two of those penalties were converted (at DAL, vs. HOU) and Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham saved one of those (at VAN).
The Galaxy would fight back, however. They would launch nine shots toward the goal in the second half with four shots on target to Houston’s eight total shots with three on target.
Bingham was forced to make two big saves in the closing 45 minutes with each of those keeping the Galaxy in the game and earned praise from his teammates and Schelotto.
In the end, it was a total team effort that showed the Galaxy’s first gutsy performance of the year. It was a hard-fought three points that once again pushed the Galaxy up to second place in the Western Conference standings with most teams still to play this weekend.
“I get happy because I think after Houston tie the game we fight for to win,” Schelotto told reporters after the game. “We deserved to win. We make everything to get the ball to be direct, to play. Everything we did on the field was to win.”
The Galaxy, for their part, will need to rest up quickly as they have a short week. They’ll travel to take on Minnesota United on Wednesday night before once again returning home to host Real Salt Lake on Sunday.
And with injuries to Chris Pontius (not in training this week), Rolf Feltscher (groin), and Romain Alessandrini (left knee), the Galaxy will need to take all the healthy bodies and throw them at the next two games.