The LA Galaxy did enough to secure a road point against a fiesty Houston Dynamo side. And for the first game of the season, that’s good enough.
It was the definition of the first game of the season. The passing was off, the defense had lapses in concentration, and the offense was out of sync. And to walk away with a point after that is an excellent result for the traveling LA Galaxy.
But the Galaxy’s 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo on Saturday afternoon in front of a sold-out BBVA Stadium didn’t start that way. No, a 13th-minute wonder-strike from Galaxy Designated Player Cristian Pavon set the game on fire to kick things off and probably set an unrealistic tone for the rest of the match. Even if the goal followed a barrage of attempts inside the first two minutes from the Galaxy that included a header from midfielder Aleksandar Katai that hit the crossbar and several other close calls.
Goalkeeper David Bingham started the Galaxy’s only successful attack by distributing quickly up the field to Pavon. The ball was inch-perfect, catching Pavon in stride and allowing him to push up the line. And with Chicharito dragging another two defenders away from the play, Pavon whipped a right-footed shot into the upper corner for the early lead. It was Bingham’s first assist since 2017, and his second-ever in MLS.
But the goal also signaled an end to the positive play for the Galaxy in the opening half. Instead, Houston grew into the game and started to exert more and more pressure. The Galaxy, on the other hand, struggled to put passes together and saw promising attacks fizzle out before drawing anything dangerous.
Halftime saw the Galaxy ahead, but the Dynamo would make the Galaxy pay early in the second half. That’s when Zarek Valentin would play Boniek Garcia into the box. Garcia would gather and drive to his right before unleashing a right-footed shot that Giancarlo Gonzalez deflected ever so slightly. But Bingham had already collapsed on Garcia. And by leaving the entire wide-side of the net open, allowed an easy finish for the Dynamo goalscorer.
But it wasn’t all bad news for the Galaxy. Emiliano Insúa impressed in his first game for the club, making several tackles and getting into the attack enough to understand what Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Dennis te Kloese saw in him. Right-back Rolf Feltscher was also very good on the night. He snuffed out crosses, made several timely tackles, and generally did well to shut down the attack from his side.
The real deficiencies for the Galaxy came through the midfield and into the offense. Sacha Kljestan, Perry Kitchen, and Sebastian Lletget lacked anything dangerous through the middle, and that kept the Galaxy’s biggest offseason acquisition — Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez quiet for most of the night. Although quiet is a relative term for the Galaxy’s Captain as he grew more and more vocal as the game came to a close — even having some compare him to the demonstrative Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Katai, outside his earlier header, had a couple more shots with chances to change the game, but he couldn’t finish any of them and was eventually subbed in the 58th-minute. His fitness still a big question mark that has yet to be answered.
Pavon and Chicharito couldn’t get on the same page towards the end of the match, even as momentum shifted back in the Galaxy’s favor. Some timely defending by the Dynamo, some unfortunate passing by the Galaxy, eventually led to a full-time whistle.
But for a team who hasn’t earned a sing point in Houston since September of 2017, the result is a good one. And the defense can be thanked for that. After all, in four of the last six games between these two teams, the Galaxy had allowed three goals or more. And the Galaxy, in that span, had also been outscored by a total of 15 goals to 10.
With the draw, the Galaxy are now a third of the way toward their entire draw total of 2019 (3) and are one point closer to a better 2020 season.
The club will return to Los Angeles on Saturday night and start preparing for their home-opener at Dignity Health Sports Park on March 7 (7:00 PM; SpectrumSN) against the Vancouver Whitecaps.