The LA Galaxy didn’t do a lot right in their draw with the San Jose Earthquakes. But what they did get right was worth a point on the road.
It was an ugly game. And that started well before the LA Galaxy even departed Los Angeles for their same-day travel that saw a 0-0 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes (2-4-4; 10 points) on Sunday night.
With fires all along the west coast, air quality meant the game played in “unhealthy” conditions for the entire 90 mins — a haze surrounded Earthquakes Stadium, as the lights shined down toward play. Then there was a field that played nicely on top but gave way anytime a player would cut — something David Bingham pointed out is always the case.
And finally, there was the Galaxy’s offense. An offense that scored 11 goals during their four-game win streak, but couldn’t settle on the night. MLS MVP candidate Cristian Pavon couldn’t keep the ball down and only had one of his four shots find the target. They were shots he normally puts on goal.
“It made it kind of a crazy and hectic game and that probably suits them more than us,” Defender Dan Steres said of the distractions. “But there are no excuses for anything, and we just weren’t sharp passing the ball and finishing.
“It wasn’t just the offense, it was us playing out of the back. It was just a little off; the field was tough, but it played well. The conditions were tough, but everyone is on it.
“It just wasn’t our night, we had our chances to get some goals,” he continued. “Pavon had three shots he usually buries and for some reason, just went over. So it was one of those days. But it’s good to show that as a team, when that happens, we can stick to it and get a shutout.”
So instead of Pavon rescuing the Galaxy (4-3-3; 15 points), the offense was in the hands of 18-year-old Efrain Alvarez. The young midfielder started the game in place of defender Rolf Feltscher who head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto put on the bench. Julian Araujo slid into his preferred right-back position.
Schelotto opted for a more offensive lineup with Alvarez in front of Araujo, and that largely played out as expected. With Alvarez doing about as much on defense as expected and Araujo staying back to protect the net.
Alvarez would have the best scoring chances for the Galaxy. In the 42nd-minute of the match, he’d find himself on the end of the best offensive move of the night. That included quick passes from defender Emiliano Insua, Daniel Steres, and midfielders Sebastian Lletget and Joe Corona. The end result was a wide-open shot from about 25 yards out that Alvarez could set up for his preferred left foot. The shot would beat the goalkeeper but ping off the upright squarely. And even a follow up to that saw Alvarez catch it cleanly but be blocked inside the box.
Where inches mattered, almost all night, the Galaxy didn’t measure up.
“I think the game was very tight. None of us took advantage during the game,” Schelotto told reporters. “We fought; we ran. I think we got into playing the way they wanted because they needed to get something tonight. They were ready to run.”
But Schelotto did give midfielder Jonathan dos Santos another stint at midfield. And his 33 minutes moved the Mexican International another step closer to a full return to the starting lineup. He was involved in a great scoring chance in the 75th minute that should have seen Lletget. — who was making his 100th career start in MLS on the night — find a goal. But Lletget’s header, off the chip pass from dos Santos, was parried away for another Galaxy corner.
Another promising sign was the return of Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. He also came on for the final 33 minutes of play marking his first involvement with the Galaxy since an injury (right calf-strain) in training during the MLS is Back Tournament in July. But with the Galaxy offense struggling without Chicharito in this game, his presence didn’t change the outcome.
“I think Chicharito didn’t have big options because the team didn’t give him the possibility to score,” Schelotto added. “But I think it’s good to have him on the 18-man roster. He will get better and better every game and I hope to have the best version of him very soon.”
The draw ended the Galaxy’s four-game winning streak but extended the club’s unbeaten streak. It now lands at six. The Galaxy stand tied for fourth place with LAFC who both have 15 points. But the Galaxy have played one fewer game and have a better points per game average than their cross-town rivals.
And the shutout, the third on the season and their second in a row, after defeating LAFC 3-0 last weekend, now has them tied for the third-best defense in the Western Conference.
Even if that defense ended up allowing a goal in the 89th minute only to see the linesman and VAR uphold an obvious offside call.
“I think when you go on the road and you can get a shutout, you give yourself a chance to get at least a point,” Bingham said. “If we put up a shutout, you kind of expect us to get three points, but it was an off night for the offense. But that’s OK as we held it down from the back tonight.”
The Galaxy, who cut their post-game press conference short so that the team could motor across the street and board their charter plane before an 11:30 P.M. curfew took place at the San Jose Airport, should be happy with the point. On a night that saw several players have their worst game of the restart, they will still fly home with something. And that’s important to the mental health of this team.
And with the Colorado Rapids set to arrive at Dignity Health Sports Park on Saturday night (7:30 PM; Saturday, September 19), they’ll need that positive outlook if they want to take a necessary three points at home.
“I am happy with the defenders because it’s important not to give up goals and the defense has been working really good in the last games,” Schelotto explained. “I am happy for them.”
But he added an important note for the entire team. “Sometimes you have to run, you have to fight,” he said. “And we did that.”