By Ivan Yeo
It had been a while since the Los Angeles Galaxy experienced this kind of feeling.
The last time the Galaxy started out a season 0-2 was 2001. That season, the Galaxy eventually made it to the MLS Cup final, where they lost to its arch-rival San Jose Earthquakes in Columbus on a stoppage time goal by Dwayne DeRosario. While it’s too early to seen how the remainder of the Galaxy’s season will turn out, LA is nevertheless trying to stay positive following its 1-0 loss to the Portland Timbers at StubHub Center on Sunday evening.
“I think we showed character,” Galaxy keeper Clement Diop said. “I think we showed that we are a tough team to play against. And we will never give up until the end of the season.”
The first half did not go well for the Galaxy, as they surrendered a goal on an ideal counter attack just eight minutes into the match. Sebastian Blanco sent a long ball to Diego Chara, who then played a ball to a sprinting Diego Valeri into the penalty area. Valeri’s run brought Diop towards him and Valeri whipped a short pass to Chara, who easily slotted in the open net shot. Compounding matters, Galaxy defender and captain Jelle Van Damme picked up two yellow cards (albeit controversially), forcing the Galaxy to play a man down the rest of the match and Giovani Dos Santos exited the match at halftime due a hamstring problem.
“You’re always going to deal with adversity through the course of the season. You don’t want to draw it up where it’s this early,” Onalfo said. “I actually look at it differently. We’ll be better for this. We got some players some minutes and they performed well. That helps create depth to our team.
LA buzzed around the Timbers net for most of the second half, creating a host of chances. The first chance came in the 71st minute, when Sebastian Lletget sent a free kick into the Timbers penalty area, the ball was headed high in the air and came down when Roman Alessandrini teed up a one-timer for the near post, but Jake Gleeson got down just in time to parry the ball over the endline. The Galaxy had another good look late in stoppage time, as Emmanuel Boateng held the ball on the right side, passed to Alessandrini, who sent a cross towards the six-yard box, Joao Pedro and Jose Villarreal went for the ball and Villarreal flicked a dangerous header towards goal, but Gleeson again went down just in time to deflect the ball over the end line.
It wasn’t just on offense that the Galaxy were clicking in the second half. The Galaxy made one big defensive play a in the 72nd minute, which started when Fanendo Adi rounded Rafa Garcia, who slipped while trying to mark him. Adi quickly raced for the penalty area despite a last-minute effort by Lletget to stop him, maneuvered past Diop, which left him with an open net. Adi made one last touch to get Lletget to the ground, but Garcia not only managed to race back to the play, but make a slide tackle to block Adi’s shot and cover the ball long enough to allow Diop to collect the ball at the end line.
“Get up as quickly as possible,” Garcia said. “As the play was unfolding I slipped and it’s part of it. I cleared it fortunately but that was a play that could have been avoided.”
The Galaxy were also encouraged by the play of Diop between the pipes. Diop, one of the more recently heralded players coming out of the Galaxy academy and got the start for Sunday’s match in place of Brian Rowe. Diop got his first save in the 70th minute when he denied Valeri inside the penalty area and also parried away a potential rebound attempt, then in stoppage time raced out of the box to beat Chara to a 50-50 ball.
“I tried to keep the team in the game as much as I could,” Diop said. “We put in a hard fight and a great effort, but we lost so the result wasn’t here.”
It had been a long time since the Galaxy got out of the gate slowly. LA however can take solace in a few things; one is that it’s still very early into the season, the Galaxy are dealing with injuries and suspensions and history has shown that one mid-summer acquisition came turn a team’s fortunes around pretty quickly, such as Cuauhtémoc Blanco’s arrival in 2007 that turned the Chicago Fire from a middle of the pack squad to getting within a game of the MLS Cup final. Certainly the Galaxy are hoping that this season’s finish will mirror that of 2001, albeit with a different ending.
“I think it comes with time, getting to know each other,” Garcia said about getting results. “It’s group that maybe hasn’t spent a lot of time together. With that being said, there’s no excuses. We have to come out there and we have to defend our colors especially at home and like I said earlier, we are not worried about it. The results will come.”