After a first half that saw the LA Galaxy stand toe-to-toe with LAFC, did the team quit on GBS? He thinks so.
The LA Galaxy should have been feeling good about themselves after the first 45-minutes of a weird El Trafico taking place in Orlando, Florida on Saturday night. But all the good vibes were ejected when LAFC scored four second-half goals, to win running away by a final score of 6-2.
The night was colored by an ominous tone when Galaxy Designated Player, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez was ruled out of his first El Tráfico with a strained Hamstring (expected to be out 3-4 weeks). Galaxy head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto instead, placed Cristian Pavon at the top of the formation and backfilled with Julian Araujo, Joe Corona, and Emil Cuello — the only changes from Monday’s loss to Portland.
The Galaxy, however, would get the first goal. That’s when in the 5th-minute, Sebastian Lletget dribbled in behind the LAFC defense and rifled a pass off of LAFC’s Latif Blessing as it redirected into the back of the net for the own goal. The lead was the result of good pressure from the Galaxy on LAFC and pinpoint passing under pressure inside the box.
But the lead would last for just seven minutes.
That’s when LAFC earned a penalty kick after Galaxy midfielder Perry Kitchen draped his arms around Bradley Wright-Phillips and brought him to the ground on a corner kick. The call may have been soft by head referee Allen Chapman, but Kitchen was at fault for giving Wright-Phillips a chance at drawing the foul. Diego Rossi would bury his penalty shot, bringing the game level at one’s.
The Galaxy, for their part, would also get a penalty of their own in the 31st-minute when midfielder Joe Corona drew the foul in the box. Pavon would miss his first attempt but get a second chance when LAFC goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega came off the goal line too early. The re-take gave the Galaxy the lead once again. And once again, the Galaxy would give that lead back.
In the second minute of first-half stoppage time, LAFC would score Rossi’s second goal on a rebound from Bradley Wright-Phillips that David Bingham couldn’t handle and Dan Steres couldn’t clear. The ball ricocheted off of Bingham, back past Steres — who tried and failed to get his foot on it — and right to the foot of Rossi who buried the attempt.
The second half for the Galaxy would go no better than the last play of the first. LAFC would score four unanswered goals en route to total tactical and physical domination. Rossi would end up scoring four times on the night, interrupted only by Wright-Phillips scoring from inside the box, and Mohamed El-Munir tallying as well.
The Galaxy looked tired, dejected, and confused for most of the second half. Their control of the ball that had kept LAFC off-balance in the first 45 minutes melted away as LAFC head coach Bob Bradley expertly sent more players into the middle of the field. It was a move that made a difference.
“They just outnumbered us in midfield. That’s really what it is, “Lletget explained.” I think that’s something they do well so credit to them.”
Kitchen, Corona, and Sebastian Lletget quickly got overwhelmed, and with their heavy legs and Schelotto’s usual inattentiveness to substitutions, LAFC ran rampant through the middle of the park. Giancarlo Gonzalez was notably poor on the night, and on his side, along with Emiliano Insua, he was porous as ever.
Schelotto offered no explanation for the lack of subs. Saying, “I didn’t see the fitness going down the best. We were playing well and we made some mistakes in the second half after when Pavon scored, but I don’t see the fitness going down because we feel the humidity or heat. So I think everyone is ready to run, I could see maybe more that we gave up before the time, I saw that. I didn’t see the fitness going down.”
But when pressed with what happened in the final 45 minutes, the Galaxy offered different answers.
“I’ve played in almost all of these ‘El Traficos’,” Lletget confessed. “We always seem to be doing the same thing where we always concede either at the end of the game or right at the end of the first half. It’s as if I was preparing for that. I told the guys, just hold it, we have to kick it out, we have to do whatever we can those last minutes and that kills us. When they tied that 2-2, I think that was a game changer for us.
“Obviously if we had finished that half 2-1 I think we have a different spring in our step going into the second half.”
“I think that it happens because we have to keep in mind that we haven’t played in four months and we played two intense and physical where we tried to play and ran a lot,” Pavon told reporters after the game. “I think more than anything, it’s because of this. Not our physical form or anything like that, only because we haven’t played in four months and we just started playing right off the bat.”
Schelotto was more pointed, saying that his team had quit. “I don’t know why we give up to play like we were playing, trying to push them, and when we get the ball, to play and looking for Pavon, Cuello on the left or Araujo on the right… We gave up. I don’t know why.”
But that quit may have been with the club throughout the start of the season. With just one point from the Galaxy’s first four games, the club set a new mark for the worst start in franchise history with the loss. They’re currently at the bottom of Group F in the tournament and sit 12th out of 12 teams in the Western Conference while remaining one of five teams who are winless in 2020. And if the season were to end today, they’re minus-six goal differential would place it among the four worst in franchise history.
There are no quick solutions for Galaxy, who are certainly missing the talents of Jonathan dos Santos (hernia surgery) and Chicharito while still searching for a replacement for Aleksandar Katai. But changes must be made. The seat that Schelotto is sitting on is getting warmer. And while No one will call it “hot” during a global pandemic, it’s currently closer to hot than it is cold.
And while the Galaxy weren’t eliminated from the tournament with the loss, their path to advancement is rather simplistic — beat the Houston Dynamo on July 23 (5 PM PT; TV – FS1), and pray the goal differential doesn’t end up costing them a chance at the knockout rounds (the top two teams in each group and the top four third-place teams advance).
But if anyone is honest, the Galaxy wouldn’t deserve to advance after the first two games of this tournament or the start to this season.
Article Updated with Quotes from the post-game press conference.