CARSON, Calif. — It should have been a memorable night for the LA Galaxy’s Chris Pontius, but instead it turned out to be just another round of disappointment.
The veteran forward, who has seen his playing time reduced dramatically this season because of various injuries and the addition of new personnel, scored the tying goal in the 86th minute of Sunday’s match with Vancouver at Dignity Health Sports Park.
The only problem was the Western Conference cellar-dwelling Whitecaps still had four minutes and stoppage time remaining to salvage an unlikely win, and they did just that, thanks to Michaell Chirinos’ breakaway goal three minutes into extra time of a stunning 4-3 victory.
Pontius later admitted his first goal since March 13 in a 3-2 win over Minnesota United helped ease the frustration of what has been a trying season for the native of Yorba Linda.
But only for a moment.
“You’re not thinking about that right at that moment,” he said. “You’re trying to figure out a way to win the game. At that point, you’re just trying to figure out how to get the fourth one and put the game away.”
Pontius had entered the game only three minutes earlier in relief of Rolf Feltscher and quickly found himself in the Vancouver penalty area, where Zlatan Ibrahimovic gathered in a long pass from Diego Polenta and headed it in the direction of Pontius, who was nearby.
The 6-foot, 170-pounder out-muscled Whitecaps defenders Andy Rose and Doneil Henry and beat Vancouver goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau for the tying goal that sent a crowd of 25,903 into a frenzy.
“Just watching the game,” Pontius said of the play, “there’s been a lot of service in there … dropping two or three guys on Ibra (Ibrahimovic) every single time. And some big boys. He just draws numbers to him.
“I knew once it goes past me, I’m just trying to stay alive and stay active. Even if he doesn’t get his head on that ball it’s going to bounce somewhere in that region. Ibra gets his head on that ball, puts it down and then it’s kind of just trying to get a shot off as fast as I could.
“I was able to put it on my left and put it by (Crepeau),” he added.
Vancouver countered quickly — literally — as the Galaxy got caught short-handed while pushing for the go-ahead goal. Vancouver’s Fredy Montero and Chirinos headed in on Galaxy goalkeeper Matt Lampson — David Bingham did not play because of a quad strain — on a breakaway and Chirinos supplied the finishing touch after a pass from his teammate.
“You know, after that goal you can kind of go one of two ways,” Pontius said of his tying score. “You can sit down and say, ‘OK, we’re happy with the tie’ and that just isn’t in our nature. We were going after the win there.
“You kind of get bit sometimes when you’re doing that, but it’s kind of the mentality of our team. We weren’t going to sit back at that point.
“If we would have scored a goal, we wouldn’t be talking about that,” he went on. “This happens sometimes. Now we have to go to Houston and win and give ourselves the best chance we can at a (playoff) seed.”