With a chance at pulling into first place in the Western Conference, the Galaxy rue missed chances, and that instinct to put teams away.
CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy won’t be happy with how they played the second half while hosting the last-in-the-conference Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday night. The club had a chance to move to the top of the Western Conference with a win against the visitors. But a poor start to the second half and very little response down the stretch saw the teams share points in a 1-1 draw in front of 16,234 at Dignity Health Sports Park.
“It’s just disappointing,” Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney told reporters. “And I know the group is disappointed because you have an opportunity today, at home, to go out and jump into first place. And they’ve set themselves up for that opportunity. And we let it slide today, which is disappointing.”
The Galaxy (10-6-2; 32 pts) started strong out of the gates. And while Vanney lamented an early failure to be dangerous with their passes, he also saw the club build into several good scoring chances inside the first 45-minutes.
But hard luck case Kevin Cabral missed an early chance to take the lead in the 27th minute, and Samuel Grandsir — who has looked more and more dangerous with each passing game — couldn’t hook a shot around goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau in the 29th minute.
But Cabral’s luck would change when Rayan Raveloson dribbled through three Whitecaps players and then dished off a pass to Efrain Alvarez. Alvarez spun around and threaded a ball into Cabral, who was left alone in a pocket of space about eight yards from goal. He waited what seemed like an eternity and then fired through a defender and past the goalkeeper for his second goal of the season.
“You know, obviously, the easy thing is we need to finish more of those chances.” Vanney explained. “You get a team against the ropes you’ve got to really put them away and take your chances, be more efficient around the goal. But I thought our counter-press was good, and I thought we had good control of the game. And they didn’t have much going on.”
And while the Whitecaps didn’t have much going for them, they are known as a second-half team. So their adjustments were more than enough to frustrate the Galaxy for the final 45 minutes.
The Whitecaps exited the break, made two substitutions, and dominated the first 15 minutes of the half. And while their buildups were good, they didn’t feel overly dangerous. It was just that the Galaxy couldn’t get on the ball and seemed to lack the urgency to wrestle control back.
Vancouver would win a corner in the 50th minute, and that’s where midfielder Déber Caicedo would put in his cross and find the head of Ranko Veselinovic. Veselinovic moved toward the cross, fell slightly behind Galaxy defender Sega Coulibaly, and then out-jump goalkeeper Jonathan Bond. All while re-directing the ball just inside the far post. It was a superb header, with all the technique getting it just right.
There was little response for the Galaxy, though they did find some dangerous chances.
Grandsir would fire a couple of times at goal, forcing a toe-tip save by Crepeau, and the Vancouver goalkeeper would use a teammate as a human shield in another chance to clear a ball off the goal line. But those felt like scrambles instead of coherent buildups to a goal.
On the whole, the Galaxy didn’t play poorly. In fact, outside of Coulibaly struggling a bit at center back and Julian Araujo having an uncharacteristically quiet second half where he looked like he was out of energy more than anything else, the Galaxy as individuals, played fine.
But there’s no doubt that this was a missed opportunity for the Galaxy.
“Yes, it’s a drop of two points,” Defender Derrick Williams said of the draw. “But we can’t get too down because we’re getting better as we go, and we’re still a young side. We were still missing the best striker in the league, and we haven’t played a lot together as a full starting 11. So there’s a lot of positives, but it’s the small details that we need to change to really be up there and be a championship-winning team.
“And we’re not quite there just yet. Just some small details to change. And hopefully, we can you can get it right.”
The Galaxy will have the next week to get ready for a road trip to Minnesota on Saturday before facing a hellish next six days that see them play Colorado and San Jose in Los Angeles on the following Tuesday and Friday.
And Vanney is hopeful that an injured Victor Vazquez and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez will help through the very condensed upcoming schedule. And Vanney also seemed bullish on getting the paperwork settled for newly acquired striker Dejan Joveljić — who’s P-1 visa is still being worked out.
But on a Sunday night when the Galaxy should’ve been celebrating a climb to the top of the table, they’re left answering more questions. In the long term, that might help this team grow. Perhaps they hadn’t earned it yet.
“But the message is, maybe we weren’t ready to take it today,” Vanney responded when asked about missing out on the chance to be in first place. “But we need to be ready to take it the next time we get it. And we need to get ourselves to keep getting better and keep improving.
“So it’s not going to get any easier in terms of the way these games, and the way these matches, are kind of bunched together. But we will get deeper, and that will maybe will help us through this for sure.”