The LA Galaxy knew they needed to score goals when their captain, and leading goal-scorer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was suspended for their east coast matchup with Atlanta United on Saturday afternoon.
But it was unlikely they were accounting for the two own-goals they conceded in the first 45-minutes of the game. Two goals that ultimately kept the Galaxy from a winning position and pulled some promising chances away from the spotlight in 3-0 loss.
Dave Romney, filling in at center back for Dan Steres, scored the first of the own goals. Similar to the loss to Portland last week, the Galaxy were caught in transition. A promising scoring chance on one side of the field led to a quick three-pass counter-attack that pulled defender Jorgen Skjelvik out of position.
The cross came into the box and forced Romney and the rest of the defenders into facing their own goal. His slide, with attackers over his shoulder, deflected the ball past Bingham for Atlanta’s first goal of the night in the 23rd-minute.
The own-goal would strike again just before halftime. When a similar situation, but from the Galaxy’s opposite side, found defender Giancarlo Gonzalez facing his own goal and deflecting another dangerous cross behind Bingham.
The final nail in the coffin came when referee Drew Fisher awarded a penalty kick in the 71st-minute of the game after a VAR review showed contact between Gonzalez and Atlanta’s Emerson Hyndman. The contact was minimal, and Gonzalez seemed to position himself ahead Hyndman, but the call stood. The result gifted Atlanta’s Josef Martinez his record-tying ninth goal in nine consecutive games and killed the game off for United.
“I think the first half was even,” Galaxy Head Coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto said. “I think nobody had an advantage over the other team. But we made two own goals and gave them the possibility to be more relaxed and have a little more of the ball, but the game was very even.
“In the second half, we couldn’t manage the ball and try to score to do something in the game. I think the last 45 minutes I’m not very happy with the team.”
Schelotto has a right to be upset. But maybe it’s time to question the team’s mindset during these blowouts.
The Galaxy were a dangerous, attacking team in the first half. But the second half found them short on attackers and lacking any probing touches.
Antuna was good at getting in behind Atlanta, but his finishing was non-existent. Jonathan dos Santos was more involved in the attack with Perry Kitchen playing in a more defensive role, but could never find the space to launch a shot of his own. And Favio Alvarez was tantalizingly close to finding a long-range effort, but somehow always too far away to matter.
“The taste in my mouth is difficult to explain,” dos Santos said after the game. “We’ve lost two games in a row losing by more than two goals. It’s frustrating. Sometimes it reminds you of the ghosts from last season. There’s still a lot of games, but we’re the Galaxy, we have to give more, starting with me as the captain in this game. But we have to correct a lot of things, small details, little things that they teach you when you’re a kid.”
The bottom line continues to be that the Galaxy couldn’t convert their chances whereas Atlanta was better from that end.
And after not allowing an own-goal all season, the Galaxy allowed two in the same game. Making them one of only eight teams in MLS history to accomplish that feat. It’s unlucky in some ways. But Atlanta’s ability to get attackers around the soft edges of the Galaxy’s defense, and force the Galaxy to play facing their own goal is still offensive pressure that couldn’t be handled.
The Galaxy also extended their scoreless streak against Atlanta by now going 180 minutes without a goal (they’ve never scored against them in three games). Atlanta has outscored the Galaxy 9-0 in those three games.
The negatives can’t outweigh the positives, and the Galaxy’s precarious hold on a playoff position took another hit with this loss. And with another east coast trip coming next Sunday against DC United, the road to the last weeks of the regular season could be a bumpy one.