Kljestan left frustrated but upbeat in Galaxy’s loss

LA Galaxy midfielder Sacha Kljestan liked the energy, and some of the execution, but he knows that the club had a chance at taking some points.

An opportunity lost was the underlying theme in the Galaxy’s frustrating 2-1 defeat to the unbeaten Seattle Sounders on Saturday at Dignity Health Sports Park.

The first big crowd in more than a year — the announced tally was 23,165 — saw the Galaxy lead 1-0 after 21 minutes, only to see Seattle score late in the first half and then get the game-winner just four minutes after halftime.

“I’m frustrated and disappointed,” said Galaxy veteran Sacha Kljestan, who scored his second goal of the season on the penalty kick. “On the positive side, we controlled the game pretty well on both sides of the ball.

“With the ball we did a good job manipulating their spaces in the middle of the field and their back line, trying to drag guys out and find the open man. So that was much better than the last time we played Seattle (a 3-0 loss on May 2).”

Kljestan, who made his second consecutive start after coming off the bench in the previous seven games, gave the Galaxy the lead with his first penalty kick since Oct. 21, 2018 when he was with Orlando City. His kick that day was the game-winner in a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Crew. 

“I asked Chicharito if he wanted to take it and he just said I could take it,” Kljestan said of Saturday’s score. “He missed his last one (against Austin FC on May 15). I was fully supportive of him taking the penalty again because he’s our top scorer and we want to keep him going.

“He looked to me and gave me the ball, so I stepped up.”

Seattle’s Yeimar Gomez Andrade eventually tied it with a header from point-blank range in the 41st minute, and Raul Ruidiaz won it in the 49th minute after a goal-mouth scramble that featured Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond denying Seattle’s first scoring attempt by Cristian Roldan. Ruidiaz, however, was right there to knock in the rebound.

Kljestan understandably was pleased with the Galaxy’s improved play from the teams’ last meeting. He just wished for a better result, especially with a big, energetic crowd on hand.

“It was awesome. That was really fun,” he said of the turnout. “The energy on the field, every time a big play was made, just to hear them, the way they were getting on the ref, getting on the other team … it felt really good.

“I think that energy from the crowd really gives us life and really kept us going. It’s unfortunate we weren’t able to score a late goal to really get that place to pop off. Like I said, I’m frustrated and disappointed, but very positive with having all those fans back in the house and making life seem normal again.

“That was amazing.”

Kljestan was the confident the Galaxy, which returns to action with two road games next week — Wednesday at Vancouver and Saturday at San Jose — before returning home on Sunday, July 4 to face Sporting Kansas City, is headed for better things, despite Saturday’s setback.

“Unfortunately we weren’t able to win,” he said. “But if we play like that with and without the ball for the most part we’re going to be pretty good. That’s a step in the right direction.”