Can defense lead the way, even when giving up multiple goals? The LA Galaxy proved it absolutely could.
CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy finally got to come home on Saturday night and with the homecoming earned a 3-2 victory over the visiting San Jose Earthquakes.
And after a tumultuous week that saw teams across professional sports boycott games from basketball to baseball, and right through the Galaxy’s match with the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday night, the club finally got to put on their kits and play tough, physical soccer back at Dignity Health Sports Park on Saturday night.
The crowd could be counted without taking your shoes off and most of the onlookers consisted of reporters and cameraman — no more than 50 in total — and three or four family members in one of the suites on the west side of the stadium.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto ran out an identical starting lineup to last week’s win over LAFC and then relied on a solid defensive performance — despite the two goals — and a set-piece bonanza to push LA over the top.
However, the Earthquakes would get on the board first when Tommy Thompson was able to beat Galaxy defender Nick DePuy to the goal line and cut back across that somehow found it’s way to the other post for Valeri Qazaishvili to knock home as Julian Araujo chased.
San Jose had dominated the early possession and caught the Galaxy flat-footed for the 11th-minute goal. But the goal had the effect of forcing the Galaxy’s hand and only increased they’re danger going forward.
LA got out on the front foot and started pressuring the Earthquakes more. The confusing man-marking system that Matías Almeyda employs for San Jose is supposed to cause chaos. Instead, it was the Galaxy who caused issues as their relentless pressure and strong physical play forced mistake after mistake.
On a free kick in the 33rd minute, Galaxy defender Dan Steres would find enough room to head home a solid delivery from Sebastian Lletget to level the game. The goal, his first of the season and eighth in his career, was an important reaction to San Jose’s early dominance.
“For me, I’m happy to get on the score sheet again.” Steres told reporters after the game.” Doing it in a win this time is great obviously. I like getting goals at some of these first games in these stadiums, so it was good.”
But the Earthquakes wouldn’t be deterred. They scored on a Cade Cowell shot in the 59th minute that came from a beautiful right-footed shot that rocketed it’s way past David Bingham’s far post. It was one of just four shots that the Galaxy goalkeeper faced, but it was also one of the two that found the back of the net.
The Galaxy would once again level the score in the 72nd minute when midfielder Cristian Pavon — who had another fabulous game — finished off a Penalty Kick awarded to the club for a handball on San Jose defender Tanner Beason. The goal also came after several close calls as Pavon, and substitute Efrain Alvarez forced chance after chance at the Earthquakes backline.
Ten minutes later, and after more pressure from the Galaxy, midfielder Sebastian Lletget would chest home his second goal in two days and secure the victory for the Galaxy. His 82nd-minute goal was the 16th of his MLS career and now leaves him just one goal short of his entire total for 2019.
“I hit it with my chest,” Lletget said. “I’m happy we got the win. That was a tough game. They’re a very tough team, they play a very unorthodox style. You can’t approach it a normal way like how we’re going to approach Portland. It’s two completely different styles.
“We showed character, we battled and most importantly we walked away with three points.”
The Galaxy got two outstanding performances from Araujo and Pavon, and the center back pairing of Steres and DePuy seems to be settling into something bordering on familiar.
Araujo was a never-pausing engine. And whether he was at midfield or on the defense, his play impressed all who watched—even his teammates.
“That’s my little bro,” Lletget joked about Araujo. “Ever since last year, I’ve seen him progress so much. A lot has been asked of him, especially playing out of position. Normally, he’s a defender by nature. He’s really stepped up.
“His energy is incredible, his pace, his hunger. It’s contagious for all of us having a guy that young being fearless. I’m really happy for him, and I hope it keeps going.”
And for the entire defense and midfield, things are starting to click.
“It’s obviously a little disappointing to give up two goals tonight,” Steres confessed. “… but we’re not only more organized in the backline, but as a team all together.
“Last week, we’re talking more, staying organized and shifting better. So it’s nothing crazy, but its what I’ve been preaching all week is it’s back to basics. We had to start from the ground up after Orlando and we’re just working through some building blocks and seeing some progress. We’ll continue from here, and hopefully, we won’t give up two next time and keep it at zero.”
The Galaxy will travel to Portland to take on the Timbers on Wednesday, September 2, at 7:30 PM (TV – SpectrumSN). It’s a game the Galaxy can’t take lightly but one in which they have a lot of momentum going into.
“Obviously winning gives us more confidence,” Pavon explained. “And winning two games consistently gave us a lot of confidence and peace because we didn’t have a lot of luck in Orlando, and thankfully, we do now.”