The LA Galaxy went down twice but made key adjustments in the 2nd half to defeat Inter Miami CF 3-2 Sunday at DRVPNK Stadium, to open Greg Vanney’s tenure as Galaxy head coach as well as the 2021 MLS regular season.
Chicharito scored a brace on the day, his first in MLS, while Vanney’s substitutes Ethan Zubak and Sacha Kljestan in particular played a key role in the goals to flip the result and pick up three points on the road.
LA brought in newcomers Jonathan Bond, Jorge Villafaña, Oneil Fisher, Samuel Grandsir, Victor Vazquez and Adam Saldaña into the first XI of the season.
The opening minutes were fairly back and forth, including a favorable Galaxy free kick in the opening moments that bounced off Miami’s wall, and a well-timed tackle by Nick DePuy on Gonzalo Higuaín in LA’s box 20 minutes in.
Higuaín had a sharp shot in the 32nd minute that forced a save from Bond, whose parry went far enough wide to snuff out the danger.
In 1st half stoppage time, Inter Miami found the breakthrough, with Higuaín leading a counterattack before hitting a simple square pass to Robbie Robinson, who scored the easy tap-in.
The Galaxy could perhaps feel hard done by an offside call missed in the buildup on Higuaín, which looked pretty clear with the benefit of some time.
And that’s how it went into the halftime break, with LA looking poor in attack through the first 45 but decent in defense aside from the goal they conceded at the end.
The opening of the 2nd half was fairly lackluster, with Vanney making changes in the 58th minute, bringing on Zubak and Carlos Harvey for Saldaña and Grandsir.
LA found their breakthrough in the 62nd minute, with Zubak hitting a pass on the ground from the left flank to Chicharito, who turned his defender and slammed home the finish.
But the good vibes were short-lived, as the Galaxy conceded a penalty about five minutes later, Rodolfo Pizarro running into/drawing a hip check from Villafaña just inside LA’s box. Higuaín converted the penalty to put Miami ahead once again.
But LA got another answer, with a long cross by Vazquez barely tipped by Zubak right in front of goal, and Chicharito pouncing on the loose ball at the doorstep to add his second goal of the game in the 73rd minute.
Victor Vazquez won’t get an assist on this Chicharito goal, but he absolutely was the catalyst behind it. pic.twitter.com/p1NZtuOUpR— Rudi Schuller (@RudiSchuller) April 18, 2021
Kljestan had replaced Jonathan dos Santos in the 70th minute, and Cameron Dunbar entered for Vazquez in the 77th minute.
The subs continued to make a difference, with Kljestan hitting a speculative shot from the edge of the box off a layoff in the 81st minute that eluded everyone and snuck inside the near post.
Sacha Kljestan gives LA Galaxy the lead— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) April 18, 2021
This game pic.twitter.com/uadDIgaLvl
Nico Figal nearly had a chance to tie up the game for Miami deep in stoppage time off a free kick, but his header from close range went off the side netting.
While there were some decent moments in the first hour, LA looked pretty flat in attack until the hour mark, after Vanney made some changes in the lineup and tactically, and the game was truly transformed. I imagine we’ll see some of those tweaks made from the start for the next game, as the team and coach continue to figure each other out this season. But still, ending the game better than you started and with a win is notable, indeed.
The Galaxy are back in action in a week, next Sunday against New York Red Bulls, their second and final Eastern Conference foe of the season. That game will be at Dignity Health Sports Park, so maybe some of you will be at the game. Should be a good one.
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