Three days after the LA Galaxy parted ways with head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto, they were back on the field and looked like a rejuvenated team, beating Real Salt Lake 2-1 at Dignity Health Sports Park Sunday to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
Maligned defender Giancarlo Gonzalez had his best game in a Galaxy uniform, scoring on one end and saving a certain goal at the other to power LA to the win, their first in three games.
Interim head coach Dominic Kinnear made changes to the starting XI in his first game this year in charge, with David Bingham returning in goal, Julian Araujo moving back to right back, Sebastian Lletget at the No. 10, Yony Gonzalez moving to right wing, and Ethan Zubak starting up top. Giancarlo Gonzalez was moved to right sided center back after previously being completely ineffective on the left side of the pairing. As expected, Chicharito was not available for the game.
Kinnear had little help on the coaching staff for the night, with just technical director Jovan Kirovski helping out, Kinnear saying during his pregame press conference that he couldn’t bring anyone in for his temporary staff unless they had cleared coronavirus quarantine.
After an energetic start for both teams, LA took the lead in the 18th minute, with Giancarlo Gonzalez heading in Lletget’s free kick service. It must be noted, Perry Kitchen started the play clearly offside, and seemed to distract RSL goalkeeper Andrew Putna, but Kitchen wasn’t involved in the play so it was legal.
The teams went to halftime with the Galaxy leading 1-0, LA leading in the attacking categories despite RSL holding a 60-40 edge in possession through the first 45.
A few minutes into the second half, RSL almost found an equalizer, but Corey Baird’s chip attempt was a bit slow, and Gonzalez saved a goal off the line in acrobatic fashion.
BRAVO PIPO!— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) November 2, 2020
What a save from the Costa Rican pic.twitter.com/0xlMegv5c4
Jonathan dos Santos, who had probably his best half of the season in the first half, came off the field around the hour mark with an apparent injury. He limped to the locker room and the Spectrum SportsNet broadcast said he had a calf injury.
Cristian Pavón gave the Galaxy a multigoal lead, when he went on a long dribble upfield and hit a nifty shot into the far post corner in the 65th minute, his 10th goal of the season.
But RSL weren’t out of it, as Douglas Martinez came off the bench and scored in the 78th minute to make it 2-1, giving the visitors hopes in the final minutes.
It was a mad dash to the finish, but the Galaxy saw out the win, and their playoff hopes remain alive, while RSL are officially eliminated from playoff contention this season.
It was a stellar first half performance for the Galaxy, while the second half was far more bumpy, RSL controlling the run of play and getting the edge in the attacking categories aside from the stalemate in goals. Still, the Galaxy kept it together long enough to post the win, and with Kinnear’s tactical tweaks, overall it’s a breath of fresh air for a team whose season seemed buried. There’s two big games ahead but this was a promising start for the final week of the regular season.
LA are next in action Wednesday, when they are scheduled to host the Seattle Sounders in the penultimate game of the regular season.
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