The LA Galaxy may have managed a point in Orlando in their final group stage game against the Houston Dynamo on Thursday night, but neither the scoreline nor the play on the field convinced anyone that anything had been fixed for the winless Galaxy.
The 1-1 draw extends the Galaxy’s worst start in franchise history with just two points through the first five games, and the draw, while eliminating Houston, also killed any chance the Galaxy had of advancing (the Galaxy needed a win by three or more goals).
Head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto started Ethan Zubak at the top of the formation and replaced Giancarlo Gonzalez with Nick DePuy on the backline. And that backline didn’t allow a single goal from the run of play — a serious improvement over the six goals they wallowed in the loss to LAFC.
But a 17th-minute set-piece strike from Houston attacker Darwin Quintero would be most of the real danger the Galaxy faced on the night. After a poor foul by Perry Kitchen to the right-center of the box, Quintero struck a powerful shot up and over the Galaxy wall. But goalkeeper David Bingham was leaning in the wrong direction. And instead of taking a couple of steps to his left and making the save, he watched helplessly as the ball pass no more than five feet from him into the curling netting.
The Galaxy would go on to outshoot the Dynamo, out-posses the Dynamo, and generally create more chances.
But Cristian Pavon didn’t have his best night. And the Galaxy didn’t have ideas in the final third that were anything outside of lateral moves that ended in a hopeful cross.
In fact, the Galaxy would launch nearly 35 attempts into the box, complete approximately 500 passes, and hold 64% of the possession while outshooting Houston 15 to 12. They’d have exactly nothing to show for it until Diedie Traore, a second-half substitution, would draw a soft penalty kick in the box just before the end of the match.
And maybe Schelotto is looking at the same stats? “I think if you check the result and how we played in some games, it’s a little unfair,” he said via video conference. “We know we need to fight; we need to be organized. Every game we have to play 100-percent and try to win and try to be organized and give everything we can in every game in the 90 minutes.
“If you give up before, like it happened the other day against the other team from Los Angeles, where we collapsed in the last 10 minutes and we gave a bad result. But if we keep fighting and stay organized as today, you can improve to be a much better team.”
Pavon would convert the penalty in the 1st minute of added time, sending the final seven minutes of the match into utter chaos. It was Pavon’s second consecutive game with a goal, and this season, he has three goals through five games, plus one assist.
Although, that assist total should have been more than two.
Pavon tripped himself on a couple of counter-attack attempts, and the best chance — with Zubak running to his right — would see a perfect pass wasted. Instead of continuing his run, Zubak stopped and missed a sure tap-in. And as the ball eventually rolled harmlessly out of bounds, Schelotto could feel the points fall out of his pockets.
But for all the chances, the Galaxy deserved this result. Their lack of finishing and the utter inability to create opportunities is not worthy of a three-point win.
However, the defense with DePuy next to Steres was stout and, for the most part, unforgiving. They kept Houston out dangerous chances and recovered well when the counter-attack broke down the middle of the field.
“I think just being a little bit more organized in all the lines,” midfielder Joe Corona explained. “Another important thing is we were also missing some key players like Jonathan [dos Santos], Chicharito [Hernandez] got injured, so with a more complete team, I think we can be better, and like I said we still have a lot to work on.”
Working on themselves should get a little easier now that they’ve been eliminated from the tournament. And while they took the Dynamo with them with the draw, no one should be claiming they deserved anything more.
Major League Soccer has yet to announce an extended season after the tournament. But with most major sports in the United States planning some sort of regular season, it would seem unlikely this is the end of the line for the Galaxy.
But just two points through five games leaves everyone a lot more to think about during the downtime.