Through about an hour of the LA Galaxy’s game against Inter Miami on Sunday to open the 2021 MLS regular season, it looked very much like the same old Galaxy.
LA were trying to find a breakthrough, but down 1-0, they seemed to fall into old habits. Giving up a goal and playing from behind, the game was slow, and their attacking strategy looked like they were launching crosses at Chicharito again and again, to no avail.
But unlike 2020, the Galaxy adjusted, and they found an equalizer, courtesy of Chicharito, before going down again in the game a few minutes later. But they found another equalizer, again from Chicharito, before substitute Sacha Kljestan grabbed the winner in the final 10 minutes with a sweet strike from distance, in a 3-2 victory at DRVPNK Stadium.
“In terms of the effort, I’m just really proud of the guys,” said Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney in the postgame press conference. “In the first half, it was just too slow, the ball was moving too slow. We weren’t creating enough danger and asking them enough questions just because everything was too slow to deal with. So we talked at halftime about the game having to find another speed.”
“In the second half, I challenged them to push the tempo and I thought for the first few minutes there was a couple chances but really things changed when we went to a second forward,” he added.
Vanney’s substitutions on the day were on the mark, as in addition to Kljestan’s winner, homegrown forward Ethan Zubak set up Chicharito’s first goal and indirectly helped set up his second goal as well.
“Obviously Zubak’s running and his ability to threaten the depth and just run off of the backs of center backs who are pretty aggressive kind of pulled the game forward a little bit more and that helped things to kind of pick up,” Vanney explained.
Kljestan noted that spirits were high coming into the game, that the group’s energy was “lighter, fun and more exciting than last year.”
He also admitted he was relieved to score his first goal for the Galaxy, and that he’s been putting in extra work on his finishing in training.
The feeling was similar for Chicharito, whose relief was likely magnified considering his star status and expectations.
“The only thing that comes to mind since I scored my first goal is everything has been worth it. Even that bad year that I [had], helped me so much to improve. If we don’t have bad moments, where’s the improvement?” Chicharito said.
“Honestly, I haven’t been working this hard in my whole life,” he added, while also paying tribute to the entire team in pushing for the win.
It was the first game of Vanney’s tenure as Galaxy head coach, and he’s been hard at work to shake the “same old Galaxy” tag that’s followed the team the past several years.
“In a nutshell, I told them to remember this feeling, and everything that they laid on the field today to get to it,” Vanney said. “If all of us want to be great as a team and as players then we have to be courageous, we have to go for it, and we have to lay it all out from minute one to the last minute of the game and more of these types of days will happen for us.”
“Remember the sacrifice and the suffering and everything we had to get through to come back and get a victory...It’s an emotion I want them to remember.”
Vanney admitted nabbing the first win was something he’ll savor a bit more considering the context.
“It was a bit emotional for me at the end of the game just because being back at the Galaxy and to get the first win in an organization that means so much to me over the years,” he said.
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