Photo by LA Galaxy/Robert Mora

Zubak, Galaxy put in the effort in win over LAFC

Forward Ethan Zubak scored his first MLS goal while praising the work rate of his teammates in the victory over LAFC.

Ethan Zubak was in a celebratory mood, and for good reason.

The LA Galaxy striker not only recently had gotten engaged, but he scored the first goal of his Galaxy career Saturday. It came at the perfect time, too, in sparking the five-time MLS Cup champions to a surprising 2-0 victory over arch-rival Los Angeles FC at Banc of California Stadium.

Zubak, a 22-year-old native of Corona who made his senior-team debut on March 9, 2019 in a 2-0 loss to FC Dallas, gave the Galaxy the only goal it needed in the 26th minute when he headed in a perfect crossing pass from Julian Araujo. Zubak was one of three unmarked players (the others being Nick DePuy and Dan Steres) in the LAFC penalty area on the play, and Zubak said the easy score simply was a product of an emphasis on set pieces during practice.

“We knew we have big bodies in the box … (Emiliano) Insua, Steres, DePuy … so there was definitely an emphasis on it in training,” Zubak said. “But it was one of the many things we worked on. There was just a lot of preparation going into this game.

“It was one of the most intense weeks of training we’ve ever had. And I think for good reason.”

Zubak may have been referring to the Galaxy’s 0-3-2 start — the worst in franchise history — prior to Saturday. Zubak did not downplay the importance of the club’s first victory of the season and the Galaxy’s third in the all-time series (3-2-3, including postseason) between the bitter rivals.

The Galaxy, Zubak said, had a lot to prove and took a significant step in that direction thanks to his efforts and that of Sebastian Lletget, who finished the scoring in the 54th minute (Araujo got the assist on that goal as well) with his first goal since he scored twice in a 7-2 romp over Sporting Kansas City last Sept. 15.

“There’s a lot that went into it, for sure,” he said. “This is obviously the first win of the season; it’s amazing to do it against our rival. But I think it’s been building up for a while.

“The mentality after Orlando” — referring to the recent MLS Is Back tournament in Orlando, Fla., in which the Galaxy made an early exit — “was we know that we have the right tools to do great things. Everyone got together and really made an effort to train even harder and try to be a group. That’s what I think we saw out there today. The LAFC game in Orlando (a 6-2 loss on July 18), I think we had to take a long, hard look in the mirror and realize what we have to do as a team. Individually I think every guy stepped up. And it hurt a lot in Orlando, for sure.

“We’re ecstatic,” he said. “We’re just hungry for more games now, and hopefully this is the start of some great things.”

Zubak said he couldn’t help but be impressed with the Galaxy’s collective effort that resulted in the team’s first shutout since a 2-0 triumph over FC Dallas last Aug. 14 at Dignity Health Sports Park.

“Literally, everyone on the field was putting in so much work,” he said. “For me to get a goal, it was a product of the whole team. Just amazing, from every position on the field. It was an awesome day, and they made it very easy for me.

“I’m ecstatic to score the first goal in my career. But I want to give a shout-out to the whole team, too, because they made it all possible.”