CARSON, Calif. – A stunning victory instead turned into a disappointing tie as the short-handed Galaxy fought Seattle to a 2-2 draw on Saturday in front of a sellout crowd of 26,213 at Dignity Health Sports Park.
The five-time MLS Cup champions played 85 minutes down a man after defender Dan Steres was red-carded by referee Robert Sibiga for his foul on Seattle’s Raul Ruidiaz as the Sounders forward headed all alone toward the Galaxy goal just five minutes into the match.
But the Galaxy persevered, thanks to a makeshift defense that was sparked by goalkeeper David Bingham’s five saves – some of them spectacular – and played heroically. It even featured Uriel Antuna at right back and Rolf Feltscher in the middle next to Diego Polenta on occasion. Even an overturned penalty in the 10th minute by the video assistant referee (VAR) failed to dampen their spirit.
The Galaxy, showing unusual resilience, grabbed a 2-1 lead in the 65th minute on Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s sixth penalty kick of the season. Ibrahimovic, however, missed another scoring attempt seven minutes later and Seattle tied it on a fluke goal in the 82nd minute to prevent the Galaxy (13-11-2, 41 points) from taking over second place in the wild and wooly Western Conference playoff race.
“Today I feel very proud about the team because they fought,” head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto said. “I think they deserved more than one point.”
The Galaxy hasn’t had much success lately against their conference rival aside from a 3-0 victory at home last Sept. 23. Before that win Los Angeles had gone 0-3-3 in the series and been outscored 14-4. So when Steres was lost in the opening moments, chances for a positive result did not exactly look promising.
Galaxy players, however, had other ideas.
“You have a choice to make when that red card comes out after five minutes,” said Sebastian Lletget, who earned his first assist since May 8 against Columbus when he teamed up with Ibrahimovic for a tying goal in the 45th minute, just three minutes after Seattle had taken the lead. “Are we just going to let Seattle take over or are we going to battle?
“We kind of felt good minute by minute, moment by moment. We made things happen. Of course in an ideal world we play 11 on 11 and we see who’s the better team, but that wasn’t the better team.
“We did all right.”
Seattle had taken a 1-0 lead on Ruidiaz’s ninth goal of the season, but Ibrahimovic tied it just prior to the end of the first half and gave the Galaxy the lead in the 65th minute before missing a glorious attempt a short time later.
Giancarlo Gonzalez, who replaced Favio Alvarez 33 minutes into Saturday’s match in an attempt to further solidify the back line, lofted a perfect long ball to Antuna, who got behind the Seattle defense and then raced toward the net. He sent a nice cross to a fast-closing Ibrahimovic for what should have been the Galaxy’s third goal, but the big Swede somehow missed redirecting the ball into the net and the Galaxy were denied what might have been a clinching score.
“I should have gone for the kill there when I could have scored with my left foot,” Ibrahimovic said of the play. “But I didn’t. I think if I score there we have more space for the remaining time of the game.
“And if it was a fair result I think we did a good job and they did less of a good job because they played with one more (player).”
Seattle eventually forced a tie just eight minutes before the end of regulation after what some generously might call a fortunate sequence. Jordan Morris, battling the Galaxy’s Jorgen Skjelvik, was on the receiving end of a long ball from Cristian Roldan. Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham came out to punch the ball away, but it caromed off Skjelvik’s head and rolled almost 30 yards and into the Galaxy net for a stunning own goal.
The Galaxy, understandably, was left almost at a loss for words with the final result.
“We had everything under control, even though we had one less man,” Feltscher said. “I feel and everybody felt we had the game under control and we were going to win this game. Even if it was difficult for us.”
They may have been left frustrated by the final score, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily were demoralized.
On the contrary.
“The guys did a great job playing with one less for 85 minutes,” Ibrahimovic said. “It’s not easy. You could see at the end we were tired, but we stood up for each other. We were fighting for each other.
“We could even win the game if we don’t do one mistake, we would win. If I had scored the goal I had in front of the goal we would win. I think we did great today, fantastic, we showed great spirit. Playing with one less for almost the whole game, it’s not easy.”