The LA Galaxy came into the final game of the regular season with nothing to play for other than a positive send-off into the offseason. The Vancouver Whitecaps found themselves in a similar situation.
Despite the absence of stakes, the Galaxy started the game with a purpose, dominating possession and controlling the flow of the game after the first few minutes. But without Sebastian Lletget, who left the team for international duty with the USMNT, LA’s attacks lacked any real bite. Vancouver ended up striking first against the run of play, and that stroke of bad fortune sent the Galaxy into a tailspin as they ultimately lost 3-0.
The Whitecaps got on the board with a simple cross into the box from Cristian Gutierrez to Lucas Cavallini, who was shockingly unmarked and able to head the ball in for the first goal of the match in the 24th minute.
From that point on, the Galaxy’s edge in possession took a substantial hit for the remainder of the first half, as they committed sloppy turnovers to give Vancouver the ball and easy chances for corners. The Whitecaps did a good job of marking Cristian Pavon, and the Galaxy didn’t have enough playmaking from the rest of their attack to generate anything threatening.
A bad start got worse for LA in the 41st minute when Julian Araujo committed a risky foul right outside of the box. He was initially whistled for a yellow card, but upon review, it was clear that Araujo got his cleats on the attacker’s leg, and the foul was upgraded to a red card, leaving the visiting team with 10 men.
Vancouver doubled its advantage in the 43rd minute when Ali Adnan had oodles of space on the left flank to send a ball into the mixer. Fredy Montero redirected the ball with his chest for the team’s second goal, and the Galaxy were cooked.
Despite needing two goals to earn a result, Dom Kinnear elected to make a defensive sub. Rolf Feltscher came in for Yony Gonzalez, and the team would rue the loss of offensive firepower.
The Whitecaps continued their offensive assault to start the second half. Chicharito came in for Ethan Zubak, though the ball was so often on Vancouver’s side of the field that it was hard to remember he was in the game. David Bingham made a spectacular save off a shot from Russell Teibert to keep the Galaxy within two in the 49th minute. Alas, the team did nothing to build off that momentum for another twenty minutes.
LA started the game with a fairly aggressive press on the back line. It was hard to maintain that same strategy with a man down, and that made it even harder to earn possession in the second half, as the Whitecaps were content to settle with their two-goal lead.
The Galaxy’s preferred style of play made the possession battle even more of a struggle because they like to play the ball quickly up the field instead of using a slower build-up. Pushing the pace is fine, unless it leads to turnovers, as it did in the second half, because the Galaxy had to work so hard to get the ball back.
The run of play finally turned in the 70th minute off yet another good save from Bingham. Cristian Dájome perfectly timed his run to beat the offside trap, but Bingham was all over it, and the Galaxy finally responded with some life on offense. Pavon had a great effort on a free kick in the 73rd minute that Evan Bush had to deflect for a corner. Sacha Kljestan then fired a knuckler in the 76th minute that Bush pushed into the crossbar. Those opportunities didn’t lead to any goals, but at least the Galaxy looked like a real-life offense instead of a team playing out the string.
With the way the Galaxy finished the game, it was hard not to wonder what the offense would have looked like in the first half had Kljestan started in place of Joe Corona. LA needed some more creative juice, and it was too little too late when Kljestan came in since the Galaxy were already playing from behind and with 10 men.
The end of the match was perfectly fitting, as Montero found one last gap in the defense to complete his brace in stoppage time. A defensive miscue to finish the game and finish the season.
This wasn’t the effort Kinnear could have hoped for to make his case to retain the coaching job, but it’s what the Galaxy have been for most of the season. On to the next one.