Photo Courtesy of LA Galaxy

Galaxy concede early, but find a way to draw with real Salt Lake

The LA Galaxy got goals from Victor Vazquez and Rayan Raveloson on Wednesday night while securing a draw against Real Salt Lake.

It wasn’t the way the LA Galaxy planned to start the game. But what team ever wants to go down two goals in the first half when they’re on the road at altitude? And while the club was trying to shake the weekend’s poor performance against the Vancouver Whitecaps, a come-from-behind 2-2 draw may have been just what the shorthanded side needed from a Wednesday night game.

Real Salt Lake was ahead inside the first ten minutes. They had their home fans at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah purring, and it looked like the Galaxy couldn’t stop them.

Albert Rusnak fired home from the center of the box in the 9th-minute after RSL had exposed the Galaxy’s weaker left-side defense. The cutback pass from Aaron Herrera was perfect, and Nick DePuy’s late recognition of the play meant Rusnak only needed to fire on goal with plenty of space.

It was a good strike that saw the Galaxy quickly in the hole, looking confused and frustrated. And it must have felt like an extension of the Whitecaps game over the weekend. But the hole would only get deeper!

Maikel Chang scored the second goal of the evening for RSL on another play that saw the Galaxy’s defense exposed on the left side.

Chang ran past Cameron Dunbar and eventually cut inside on Jorge VillafaƱa, who was left flapping in the wind. A late step-out by Derrick Williams, who mainly was wonderful on the night, allowed Chang’s shot to go through his legs and past the outstretched Jonathan Bond.

Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney then made a switch in the formation that saved the night. That’s when he moved Dunbar to the right side and, in his place, slid over Samuel Grandsir.

“I thought, to be fair, the leaking on that side stopped when Sam [Grandsir] went to that side,” Vanney explained to reporters. “So you know [Aaron] Herrera was bombing forward and creating some problems when he was building into the attacks early into the game, and we weren’t managing it well. And as soon as we swapped Sam over to that side, Herrera disappeared. And all of a sudden, he had to do a lot more defending of Sam, and Sam was creating all kinds of havoc.”

Grandsir shored up that side of things that had been a free pass for the RSL attackers, and the Galaxy finally looked comfortable on the ball. That’s when the passing stabilized, and the Galaxy wrestled control of the game back from RSL.

“I thought, when we went down 2-0, we actually played our best soccer at that point that we’ve seen in a couple of games, specifically last game,” Vanney said. “But I thought all of a sudden the ball started moving. We started to find the open player. We were playing across the field. We were doing a lot of things that we talked about. But we weren’t rushing. We were finding the next best pass, and the ball was getting to each other quicker, and it was getting to each other to give the next guy a chance to be successful.”

Victor Vazquez would find his first goal of the year after a good bit of work from the Galaxy found him on the extreme left corner of the penalty box. When he saw just an inch of room in the 33rd-minute, he fired a right-footed, curving shot past goalkeeper David Ochoa to bring the Galaxy back into the game and down just a single goal.

But for the most part, the Galaxy never pushed the pace into panic mode. While the second half saw some poor passing from both teams as the workload of playing over the weekend and again midweek started to take its toll, the Galaxy still looked like they could stay in control of the game if they played the right way.

The Galaxy got close in the 49th minute when, coming off a corner kick they put into place specifically for this match, found the head of Rayan Raveloson. Raveloson’s header was down to Ochoa’s right, but the young goalkeeper was able to make the save.

Three minutes later, Vazquez would almost find the net for his second goal of the game. His right-footed shot skimmed the grass on the way to the far post, where it ricocheted and ended up at the foot of Kevin Cabral. Cabral would take a swing at it but badly miss the wide-open net.

But Raveloson wouldn’t be denied a second time. With Julian Araujo attacking up the right-hand side, and with Vanney going to three defenders in the back to push VillafaƱa and Araujo up the field, it all came together. Araujo was able to get inside the box and read a slight movement from his defender that opened the space for the cross. That space allowed Raveloson to tie the game in the 78th minute of the match with a header, and then he quickly held his hand up to his ear to wait for the boos from the Salt Lake fans.

“It’s crazy,” Araujo said of Raveloson’s finishing ability. “He’s in the box more than some of our forwards. But I seen that Sasha was overlapping me, and the left-back kind of took a step back towards him. So I knew I didn’t have an option to play him. As soon as he took a step back, I seen three or four of our white jerseys in there, and I was just hoping that somebody was in there, and I knew Ryan was coming in, so I just wanted to play it to his head. And he got his head on it and did what he does.”

Apparently, what Raveloson does is score goals with his head. He’s now scored three in his last three games and has been a near-complete player for Vanney and the Galaxy since his feet hit American soil. He admits that his fitness isn’t where he wants it to be yet, but he’s always making an impact.

“I like to say that it doesn’t happen so often,” Raveloson said in French. “I’m lucky to have the chance to score, and I do it. And if I have other opportunities to score, I will do it with pleasure.”

Raveloson has played just 339 MLS minutes but has three goals on four shots and is averaging one goal every 84.75 minutes. For comparison, with ten goals on the season, the injured Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez is averaging one goal every 86.6 minutes.

The Galaxy can never love the way they started the game, but on the night, with five players out on international duty, and three more sidelined with injuries, their first draw of 2021 will feel like a step forward on their long road to improvement. And by keeping themselves in third place in the Western Conference — with Colorado quickly sneaking up behind them — the Galaxy can say they’re doing what they need to do on this road trip.

The club will now take a flight from Utah directly to Dallas, Texas where they’ll play on Saturday night against FC Dallas (5:30 PM; SpectrumSN).