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Leaving it late: LA Galaxy 1, Vancouver Whitecaps 0

Kai Koreniuk delivered the Galaxy’s first win in eight matches.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at LA Galaxy Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Guillermo Barros Schelotto made two adjustments in the starting eleven for the LA Galaxy’s match against Vancouver. A late substitution ended up making the difference.

Kai Koreniuk came on in the 87th minute, making only his second appearance of the season, and scored the game-winning goal in stoppage time in a 1-0 victory over the Whitecaps. It was the 22-year-old forward’s first-career MLS goal, giving the Galaxy points for the first time in seven matches, and a win for the first time since Sept. 6.

The match started to open up in the final minutes after both teams struggled to make any inroads on offense in the second half. Substitute Carlos Harvey earned a free kick in the middle of the field, and Sacha Kljestan delivered a beautiful service to Cristian Pavón on the right side of the box. Pavón’s flick bounced off the crossbar, allowing the Whitecaps to clear, but the Galaxy would not waste their second opportunity.

Julian Araujo sent another ball to Pavón, this time on the wing. Pavón whipped a low cross into the box, and Koreniuk came running in for the finish.

For most of the match, it didn’t appear that the Galaxy would be so lucky to find the back of the net. GBS started Yony González instead of Chicharito, but the team still had difficulty creating any good chances in the final third.

Kljestan played a through ball to González early in the game that would have had him with just the keeper to beat, but Evan Bush came way out of the box to clear it. In the sixth minute, González sent a cross to the Pavón from the right wing; it was inadvertently cleared directly to Pavón, giving him a 1-v-1 with Bush, but the Galaxy attacker couldn’t find an angle for a shot.

L.A. applied significant pressure to the Vancouver back line, preying on their inability to pass the ball cleanly, and the Galaxy won possession on several occasions, but they had nothing to show for those efforts. Crosses would be sent into the box without any clear target, and none of the shots were threatening despite the team earning eight corner kicks.

There was also a lack of build-up. Either the Galaxy got the ball in the final third off of a turnover or Araujo would just streak up the field, but there was nothing in between.

L.A. had its best chance of the first half in the 38th minute. González earned a free kick when the Vancouver midfielder Leonard Owusu simply clobbered him on the left flank. Efrain Álvarez sent a nice cross into Sebastian Lletget at the edge of the box, whose left-footed shot was just saved. Daniel Steres and González both had second chances off the deflection — González’s even went in — but Steres was ruled offside.

That play ended up being costly for the Galaxy and González in particular. He was roughed up a few times at the end of the half and limped off the field after the first period, but started the second half anyway. Within a couple of minutes, it was clear that he couldn’t play any longer. Pavón was flying down the field but couldn’t send it into the middle because González couldn’t keep pace with him on the break; that forced Pavón to center the ball himself and waste his advantage.

Chicharito came in for González in the 50th minute. He had more touches in the final 40 minutes than the starting forward did in the first 50, but he flubbed his best chance at a goal when Pavón found him in space in the box.

Meanwhile, the Galaxy got careless on defense in the second half, allowing the Whitecaps too much space. Cristian Dájome in particular was a menace on the right flank. Although Vancouver controlled possession, they couldn’t create any chances. The Galaxy outshot the Whitecaps 18-7, and earned eight corners to Vancouver’s three.

Still, it looked like the Whitecaps would accomplish their mission of earning one point on the road until Koreniuk’s heroics at the end, aided of course by Pavón’s brilliant creation. This puts L.A. back in the win column before the team’s last inter-city matchup against LAFC next Sunday.