The Galaxy’s 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake on Wednesday at Dignity Health Sports Park definitely wasn’t the prettiest of victories for the five-time MLS Cup champions, but it could have long-term ramifications.
Goalkeeper Jonathan Bond, who earned his third shutout of the season and first clean sheet since a 1-0 triumph over San Jose on May 29, said the hard-earned result in front of a crowd of 15,544 might help quiet those who still may have a few doubts about this group of players continuing to move forward under first-year head coach Greg Vanney.
“That is really the sign of a team that can go all the way, I think,” he said after Efrain Alvarez’s goal in the 53rd minute proved to be the game’s lone score. “It’s great when you’re scoring lots of goals, last-minute goals, and stuff, but it’s encouraging in every aspect.”
Bond, whose saves on a sharp-angled scoring attempt by Albert Rusnak in the 77th minute and a dangerous header by Real Salt Lake leading scorer Damir Kreilach in stoppage time helped preserve the shutout, understandably was happy with the result. It not only lifted the Galaxy (10-6-1) into third place in the Western Conference behind Sporting Kansas City and Seattle, but helped them reach their preseason goal of 31 points at the midway point of the regular season.
Yes, Bond might be pleased with how the season is playing out, but he also is quick to point out there are 17 games remaining before the start of the MLS Cup playoffs.
“It means nothing at this point of the season,” he said, “but like I mentioned before I thought it was a really ambitious goal for a team that’s in transition and trying to play a completely different style with a new manager, new players, new style.
“I liked the positivity and the enthusiasm behind that target, but here we are, we hit the target. Now it’s using that and pushing on through the second half of the season.”
Bond said he was far from satisfied despite Wednesday’s result — “Third shutout which is pleasing but probably not enough … we should have had more, which is very frustrating,” he said — and knows there is plenty of room for improvement.
“I think sometimes in games we’ve kind of done just enough, you know?” he said. “Compared to who we’re playing, then our level can kind of go up and down. If the standard of the game maybe isn’t high … like our standard stayed there, really high, irrelevant of who we’re playing.
“It’s about us to kind of have our own standard and hit our standards every game. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, a team from the bottom of the league or a Seattle, for example. I think that’s fair.
“We have to kind of improve in every aspect and target being great.”
Bond nonetheless said he’s encouraged — to a point.
“We’ve won games in different ways, we’ve won games by scoring early, sitting back and defending,” he said. “We’ve won games by having good finishes, like last-minute winners. We’ve always found a way to get points.
“Today was more of a complete performance, especially defensively. Then a bit of magic from Efra, who was great today as well. It’s encouraging because we know we’ve got so many areas to improve, and we’ve got 17 games now to build momentum and get that target of making the playoffs.”