LOS ANGELES, Calif. — The LA Galaxy and their 2019 season came to a brutal end at Banc of California Stadium on Thursday night. In an electric atmosphere, with the Santa Ana winds blowing unseasonably warm air into the open end of the stadium, the Galaxy lost 5-3 and were summarily bounced from the MLS Cup Playoffs by a determined and resilient Los Angeles Football Club.
The Galaxy, behind a repeat lineup from their win over Minnesota over the weekend, caved early, gifting LAFC two goals in the first half. It was Carlos Vela on both of them after some uncharacteristically poor giveaways from Diego Polenta. Vela, from the hard right side of the box, cut inside on Pipo Gonzalez and fired a right-footed shot low past Bingham in the 16th-minute for the first. It was a clean finish that skated under Dan Steres’ foot and buried into the side of the net.
LAFC’s second goal was more controversial. With Latif Blessing playing in Brian Rodriguez — who looked to be offside on all replays — space opened up for a squared ball to a wide-open Vela for his second of the night.
But less than a minute later, the Galaxy would storm down the field and watch Cristian Pavon, assisted from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, pull the Galaxy back to within one just four minutes from the half.
It was a lightning-quick strike that momentarily gave voice to the large contingent of traveling Galaxy fans.
After half time, Ibrahimovic would factor in on the next goal when he chased some bad defending deep into the box. His shot, hit right at LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller, crept between Miller’s legs for an equalizer in the 55th minute.
But that’s when things would get out of hand. Buoyed by their success, the Galaxy started pushing more numbers forward. And that would leave them exposed on the defensive side – something LAFC was more than ready to jump on.
LAFC would score three more times. Once in the 66th-minute on a goal from Diego Rossi, again in the 68th-minute — with Rossi combined with Adama Diamonde — and finally in the 80th-minute when Diamonde would score his second with a little chip of goalkeeper David Bingham.
Only Galaxy substitute Rolf Feltscher’s header in the 77th-minute broke up those goals.
The Galaxy lost the game the same way they’ve been losing games throughout the season — with lapses in defense and getting caught on the counter.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto trusted the same backline — four central midfielders — to handle an energetic and dangerous attacking side.
And when LAFC finally realized they could target Gonazlez, they scored two goals in two minutes. Schelotto’s reaction was to play Rolf Feltscher in place of Gonzalez, but the move was too little too late.
Diego Polenta, who was recently awarded the Galaxy’s Defender of the Year award, also had a horrible night. He gave away balls in the first half that led directly to goals, and he was no match for a quicker LAFC. He was particularly interested in dribbling out of the back and got caught in possession too many times.
The Galaxy are an incomplete team. And with the genuine possibility that Ibrahimovic just played his last minutes in a Galaxy uniform, they may also be looking at another offseason with significant changes.
And on a night when the entire world was watching, they came up short. Perhaps that’s fuel for next season? Or perhaps it’s a larger setback that will need more dissecting.
The only thing that’s certain, is that the Galaxy must now prep for the offseason.