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Hats off: LA Galaxy 3, New York Red Bulls 2

Chicharito remains a man on a mission in victory.

MLS: New York Red Bulls at LA Galaxy Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The LA Galaxy became the first team in MLS to notch two wins in the 2021 MLS regular season, and Chicharito tallied the league’s first hat trick of the young season in a 3-2 win over the New York Red Bulls on Sunday at Dignity Health Sports Park.

The Mexican star now has five goals in his first two games of the season and while the Red Bulls didn’t give up, LA had just enough to get the victory and spirits will be sky high following a second straight win.

Greg Vanney made two changes to his lineup for LA, with Ethan Zubak earning the start in place of the suspended Sebastian Lletget, and Julian Araujo getting the nod at right back after he was suspended for the season opener. The group seemed to play a pretty fluid 4-4-2, with Zubak a support striker for Chicharito.

In the opening seconds, New York pushed the pace and New York forward Fabio smashed into LA goalkeeper Jonathan Bond, who had a concussion test before he was deemed fit to continue.

The Red Bulls controlled the ball in the opening minutes, but LA found the breakthrough in the 9th minute, with Jorge Villafaña winning the ball in midfield, Ethan Zubak taking the ball and dribbling upfield, and hitting a cross/shot that Chicharito managed to get to before it went over the endline and tapped in.

But the Red Bulls had an answer in the 26th minute, with Andrew Gutman stealing the ball, dribbling upfield, passes it to Brian White, then receives the return pass in the box to score on the one-timer.

Right after that, Bond was pressed into action, with Fabio hitting a sharp half-volley from outside the box and that the GK got a hand to.

Chicharito scored again in the 41st minute, but the flag came up after the play. Victor Vazquez hit the Mexican in between the center backs and he easily beat New York goalkeeper Carlos Coronel. After VAR reviewed the play, the goal counted and Chicharito had his second goal of the game.

The teams went into the break with the Galaxy leading 2-1, a solid if not quite completely dominant first 45 for LA.

The Red Bulls made some adjustments at halftime and held onto ball to open the 2nd half, as they searched for another equalizer. The Galaxy struggled to get back in the game in the initial minutes.

But when you’re feeling it, you’re feeling it, and Chicharito completed his hat trick just before the hour mark. Vazquez whiffed on a shot at the near post off an Araujo cross, and the ball deflected off a Red Bulls defender and up in the air, with Chicha at the back post to smash it in.

But the Red Bulls had an answer a few minutes later, with kind of a scramble in the box off a free kick, Cristian Casseres Jr. bundling the ball over the line, to make it 3-2.

Vanney started making substitutions after that. Carlos Harvey replaced Adam Saldaña in the 67th minute, then Sacha Kljestan came in for Vazquez in the 71st minute. Then Jonathan dos Santos appeared to suffer an injury and couldn’t continue, so Efrain Alvarez made his season debut in the 73rd minute in place of dos Santos.

Then Chicharito seemed to be suffering from cramp after his hat trick, and was finally brought off in the 78th minute, with Cameron Dunbar replacing him. Oniel Fisher entered the game at the same time, in place on Samuel Grandsir.

The end of the game was very choppy, with a series of fouls, suspected injuries and yellow cards on both sides, and there was a vast 10 minutes of stoppage time to end the game. It was a nervy ending to the game for the Galaxy, no question about it.

This game really showed some defensive frailties and questions persist with the Galaxy at this point, although it will be interesting to see how newcomer Derrick Williams does when he’s healthy and available. Still, a win is a win and the Galaxy’s attack was efficient and we’re finally seeing the best of Chicharito. Long may he stay in this vein of form.

The Galaxy will get a tough test for their next match, next Sunday at Seattle Sounders. These teams have had some great meetings over the years, will LA be up for the challenge in Washington? Should be a big one for the vibes.

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