Archive | March, 2012

DC United outwork FC Dallas for 4-1 win

Posted on 31 March 2012 by Steve Long

DC United opened its season against four of the stronger teams in MLS and the results until Friday night’s were predictable. Two losses followed by a tie showed that the team had some defensive competence, but lacked scoring punch. Then FC Dallas came to town.

With Chris Pontius still a half step short of full effectiveness and Andy Najar still away with Honduras, United Coach Ben Olsen had to rely on two young wingers to make good things happen. Just as Pontius and Rodney Wallace stepped up in their mutual rookie year, the kids came through.

A significant part of their impact came from their comprehensive aggressive play. Danny Cruz, a mixture of Olsen and Josh Gros, was modest about his efforts, “Just trying to contribute. I try to put the defender under as much pressure as I can.

“I feel if he’s back on his heels then he’s not gonna want to be going forward. I try to work as hard as I can and at the end of the day when my number is called and I’m coming off the field, I’m gassed and I gave everything that I have.”

On the other side of midfield, seventh overall draft choice Nick DeLeon was confronted by a winger who puts most of his opponents on their own heels, Brek Shea. He dealt with it calmly, “Once you step on the field, he’s just another man like I am.” Deleon did concede that, “He’s real technical, strong left foot, and long legs. He’s a lot bigger in person.”

After the first game, player-coach Josh Wolff noticed the dearth of wide play and indicated that the staff was working on it. The youngsters performed as asked and trained, and the result was more space for the team’s central operators and strikers.

He explained, “I think you saw it pay dividends tonight. We stressed it during the week and it took a little while for it to open up. That’s how these games typically are and in the second half things tend to slow down a little more and create gaps. We took advantage.”

The duo’s emergence has created a nice dilemma for the coaches, “Absolutely. We have the personnel. Chris and Andy have a different skill set, very aggressive, very good one-on-one dribblers and I think Nick and Danny bring a little more bite to the position, a bit more aggressiveness trying to dig things out in the corner and get in there and get some crosses and certainly get into space behind the backs.”

Wolff agrees wholeheartedly about Cruz’ Olsen and Gros qualities, “He’s certainly got a big engine and that’s something that we lacked in our first game or two. It was clear that a guy like Danny out on the field makes us better. Whereas he might not be as technically sound as some others, he’s got a willingness and a fight that not many possess.”

He summed up the prospects for the season, “At the end of the day, he’s a very dangerous player on the field. Tonight was great; he and Nick were fantastic.” Noting that each opponent provides challenges, he likes the choice of having Najar and Pontius come off the bench or start, “The team has gotten deeper. For a coach to put his stamp on a team, it takes a year or two.

“I think we’ve got a good group now. It’s only one game, but we’ve been saying it for the last couple of weeks that we‘re not panicking here. As the games come, more comraderie, more chemistry comes.”

Both Cruz and DeLeon played together in the Arizona Olympic Development Program (ODP) and that mutual understanding showed perfectly when DeLeon beat a series of Dallas players and looked up to see Cruz rushing to goal and pointing to where he wanted the ball. The finish was poetry and gave Cruz DC’s third goal of the night.

On the other hand, the provider of the opening United score struck it from way out with a great individual effort. Maicon Santos likes to do that, “Every game with DC United I’ve been trying to shoot from long distance; that’s what I do.”

He then struck the teamwork note in describing his header off Dwayne DeRosario’s cross, “We know each other. He knows where I’m gonna be and I know where he’s gonna be.” Yet another example of improving chemistry.

For his part, the always dangerous DeRosario drew his customary close marking which paired with strong play on the wings to draw attention to give others space. He said his runs were meant primarily to free himself up but also had an intended side-effect, “That’s just to be expected and I’ve just got to be smart in terms of making space for other players.”

Wolff sat out the proceedings with a slight groin tweak, noting that with several team injuries already, “It’s a long season. We have 34 games, we have 12 reserve games, we have Open Cup games. My role first is to be a player.” The rest provided a chance to emphasize his coaching mode.

In that role, he would, “Help guys, work with guys. I’ll continue to do that even when I’m playing. Finding the balance is obviously going to be critical. At this point whatever I can do to help guys better themselves or gain a bit more perspective or be different on the field is good.”

Olsen continues to learn, just as his staff and players do. Wolff puts it simply, “There’s a few ways to skin this game and I’m still trying to figure some ways out. If you can learn things here and there from other guys it can help you go a long way.”

DC United still has that long way to go, but with good teamwork and solid training the early steps seem promising.

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DC United outworks FC Dallas for 4-1 win

Posted on 31 March 2012 by Steve Long

DC United opened its season against four of the stronger teams in MLS and the results until Friday night’s were predictable. Two losses followed by a tie showed that the team had some defensive competence, but lacked scoring punch. Then FC Dallas came to town.

With Chris Pontius still a half step short of full effectiveness and Andy Najar still away with Honduras, United Coach Ben Olsen had to rely on two young wingers to make good things happen. Just as Pontius and Rodney Wallace stepped up in their mutual rookie year, the kids came through.

A significant part of their impact came from their comprehensive aggressive play. Danny Cruz, a mixture of Olsen and Josh Gros, was modest about his efforts, “Just trying to contribute. I try to put the defender under as much pressure as I can.

“I feel if he’s back on his heels then he’s not gonna want to be going forward. I try to work as hard as I can and at the end of the day when my number is called and I’m coming off the field, I’m gassed and I gave everything that I have.”

On the other side of midfield, seventh overall draft choice Nick DeLeon was confronted by a winger who puts most of his opponents on their own heels, Brek Shea. He dealt with it calmly, “Once you step on the field, he’s just another man like I am.” Deleon did concede that, “He’s real technical, strong left foot, and long legs. He’s a lot bigger in person.”

After the first game, player-coach Josh Wolff noticed the dearth of wide play and indicated that the staff was working on it. The youngsters performed as asked and trained, and the result was more space for the team’s central operators and strikers.

He explained, “I think you saw it pay dividends tonight. We stressed it during the week and it took a little while for it to open up. That’s how these games typically are and in the second half things tend to slow down a little more and create gaps. We took advantage.”

The duo’s emergence has created a nice dilemma for the coaches, “Absolutely. We have the personnel. Chris and Andy have a different skill set, very aggressive, very good one-on-one dribblers and I think Nick and Danny bring a little more bite to the position, a bit more aggressiveness trying to dig things out in the corner and get in there and get some crosses and certainly get into space behind the backs.”

Wolff agrees wholeheartedly about Cruz’ Olsen and Gros qualities, “He’s certainly got a big engine and that’s something that we lacked in our first game or two. It was clear that a guy like Danny out on the field makes us better. Whereas he might not be as technically sound as some others, he’s got a willingness and a fight that not many possess.”

He summed up the prospects for the season, “At the end of the day, he’s a very dangerous player on the field. Tonight was great; he and Nick were fantastic.” Noting that each opponent provides challenges, he likes the choice of having Najar and Pontius come off the bench or start, “The team has gotten deeper. For a coach to put his stamp on a team, it takes a year or two.

“I think we’ve got a good group now. It’s only one game, but we’ve been saying it for the last couple of weeks that we‘re not panicking here. As the games come, more comraderie, more chemistry comes.”

Both Cruz and DeLeon played together in the Arizona Olympic Development Program (ODP) and that mutual understanding showed perfectly when DeLeon beat a series of Dallas players and looked up to see Cruz rushing to goal and pointing to where he wanted the ball. The finish was poetry and gave Cruz DC’s third goal of the night.

On the other hand, the provider of the opening United score struck it from way out with a great individual effort. Maicon Santos likes to do that, “Every game with DC United I’ve been trying to shoot from long distance; that’s what I do.”

He then struck the teamwork note in describing his header off Dwayne DeRosario’s cross, “We know each other. He knows where I’m gonna be and I know where he’s gonna be.” Yet another example of improving chemistry.

For his part, the always dangerous DeRosario drew his customary close marking which paired with strong play on the wings to draw attention to give others space. He said his runs were meant primarily to free himself up but also had an intended side-effect, “That’s just to be expected and I’ve just got to be smart in terms of making space for other players.”

Wolff sat out the proceedings with a slight groin tweak, noting that with several team injuries already, “It’s a long season. We have 34 games, we have 12 reserve games, we have Open Cup games. My role first is to be a player.” The rest provided a chance to emphasize his coaching mode.

In that role, he would, “Help guys, work with guys. I’ll continue to do that even when I’m playing. Finding the balance is obviously going to be critical. At this point whatever I can do to help guys better themselves or gain a bit more perspective or be different on the field is good.”

Olsen continues to learn, just as his staff and players do. Wolff puts it simply, “There’s a few ways to skin this game and I’m still trying to figure some ways out. If you can learn things here and there from other guys it can help you go a long way.”

DC United still has that long way to go, but with good teamwork and solid training the early steps seem promising.

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Photo Gallery: Sounders FC vs Houston Dynamo

Posted on 24 March 2012 by dlindsay

no images were found

Sounders FC defeated Houston Dynamo 2-0 on Friday in front of over 38,000 fans in Seattle. Continue Reading

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David Estrada tracks Corey Ashe.

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Seattle Sounders Houston Dynamo

Posted on 24 March 2012 by Kyle Alm

Houston Dynamo brought an undefeated record and maximum points into CenturyLink Field to face Seattle Sounders fresh off of their St. Patrick’s Day victory on the strength of MLS Player of the Week, David Estrada. Houston, a perennial Western power, now finds itself atop the Eastern Conference after defeating San Jose Earthquakes & Chivas USA.

David Estrada tracks Corey Ashe.

Houston’s style is much more physical and direct than Seattle’s, even though both sides play a 4-4-2. Houston’s forwards are not as fast as Seattle’s, but they are larger and better in the air. Houston will try and get the ball in a dangerous set piece position and try to get fouled to set up their goal. Seattle relies more on movement off the ball and passing to open up defenses.

In the 23rd minute David Estrada was sitting at the top of the circle waiting for a rebound on a corner kick, when the ball dropped right at his feet. Estrada struck the ball that deflected off of Geoff Cameron and past Tally Hall for what would later be credited as an own-goal.

Patrick Ianni drew a penalty on a corner in the 27th minute when Geoff Cameron ran under the Sounders defender while he was in the air winning the ball. Brad Evans converted the Sounders first PK of the year without incident to put the Sounders up 2-0. Although there is little disagreement about whether or not Ianni was fouled, there is some suspicion cast on the consistency of a PK being awarded for that infringement.

Andre Hainault was subbed at the half for Jermaine Taylor, the only substituion made by either side at half. Hainault was involved with a collision with Brad Evans that left him a little hobbled. Brad Evans would later sub off.

53′ Roger Levesque gets a sitter from Alvaro Fernandez drew a collective groan from the CenturyLink crowd when the ball tails off wide right. Levesque had the ball fall perfectly for him in front of the net with time to shoot and missed horribly. Levesque had a decent game other than that, he made several one-touch passes in the attack, but he didn’t really stretch the field or pose a threat on the flank for Mauro Rosales.

Almost immediately Will Bruin was on the counter attack was in a deep position near the six yard box, but was off-balance and unable  to get any power behind his header.

61′ Servando Carrasco for Brad Evans due to the previously mentioned collision with Hainault. There was no word on the extent of his injury after the game, but it is not thought to be serious.

Houston is not a team known for an open style of play, being down two goals is not conducive to their style of play. Sounders played for possession much of the second half, and looked good doing so, impressive without Mauro Rosales. Houston brought on Macoumba Kanji for Ching 76th minute countered by Leo Gonzalez for Roger Levesque, a tactical defensive move in 81st.

There was a bit of controversy towards the end of the match after Brad Davis was shown a caution for persistent infringement earlier in the 78th minute. Fernandez took an elbow or shoulder check on one of his off the ball runs. Either the ref thought El Flaco was simulating or Davis caught a break because he was already carrying a caution, either scenario should not play out as a no-call.

Michael Gspurning was only called into action for two saves the entire night, granted it was two more than Tally Hall made and in the end that’s all that matters.

38,304 in attendance.

For more photos from the match, check out the slideshow gallery: http://americansoccernews.net/2012/mls/photo-gallery-mls/photo-gallery-sounders-fc-vs-houston-dynamo/

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Galaxy Finally Break Through Against DC United

Posted on 18 March 2012 by iyeo

It was a Sunday of firsts at the Home Depot Center for the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Robbie Keane had his first two-goal game in MLS, fittingly perhaps coming the day after St. Patrick’s day, midfielder Marcelo Sarvas scored his first career MLS goal and the Galaxy breathed a collective sigh of relief with its first win of the season, defeating DC United 3-1 at the Home Depot Center.

“It’s important given what’s gone on the last few days,” Landon Donovan said of the win. “I don’t think our performance was too different from the last few days, but we cleaned up a few things defensively, we were sharper in front of goal, and that was the difference.”

The first half was a repeat of the Galaxy’s last two matches, as they once again created chance after chance, but poor finishing inside or near the DC United box prevented the Galaxy from getting that elusive goal. LA though finally broke through just before halftime, as David Beckham sent a ball into the penalty area, left back Todd Dunivant headed the ball near the six and Robbie Keane finally finished one off, beating DCU keeper Joe Willis near post to give LA a 1-0 lead heading into halftime.

“I don’t mind missing chances, I mind when I’m not in position to score them,” Keane said. “As long as keep getting into positions, eventually I’ll score.”

Keane was at it again in the 69th minute, as Landon Donovan sprung him free inside the penalty area, Keane collected himself at the left side and his ensuing volley beat Willis far post to make it 2-0 Galaxy. The Galaxy added a third goal in the 86th minute, as Beckham crossed a short ball inside the 18 and Marcelo Sarvas headed the ball past Willis into the back net to put the game out reach. Only Nick DeLeon’s first goal of the season, in which he volleyed a shot past Galaxy keeper Josh Saunders, off the far post and across the goal line, prevented Los Angeles from walking away with the shutout.

“It’s very important to score that first goal,” Sarvas said of his goal. “It helps me take that next step as far as getting accustomed to the league, but most importantly, those three points were huge.”

It has been a busy couple of weeks for the Galaxy. First, they dropped its MLS opener to Real Salt Lake in shocking fashion last Saturday, then followed that collapse by crashing out of the CONCACAF Champions League tournament against Toronto FC three days later. Yet despite all that, the Galaxy were not about to let themselves slip to a 0-0-2 start to the season.

“Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been incomplete in our performance as a both a team and individually,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said. “We were a bit cleaner in the penalty area on both sides of the ball.”

The Galaxy will have a much-needed two weeks off before its next match in which they will welcome the New England Revolution to Home Depot Center on March 31st.

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St. Hat Trick’s Day, Sounders Pinch Toronto FC

Posted on 18 March 2012 by Kyle Alm

Recent fortunes of these two teams could not be more disparate. Toronto FC is advancing in the CONCACAF Champions League Continue Reading

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TFC Heads to the CCL Semi-Final!

Posted on 15 March 2012 by Mahmoud Shoblaq

Following the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final tie, Toronto FC headed into LA with a big task after getting a 2-2 result at home! Having to overcome the 2 away goal deficit or simply winning the match was never going to be easy.

 

With a slow start to the match Ryan Johnson took advantage of a great chance to give TFC the 1-0 lead in the first half. The second half on the other hand had a different feel, where LA realized they had to rise up to the occasion and started putting plenty of pressure on TFC  leading to an own goal by Harden. TFC was resilient with Ryan Johnson continuing to put his stamp on the game and setting up Nick Soolsma for Toronto’s second goal and the game winner!

 

Toronto FC’s game flaw consisted of their high back-line that they were lucky not to have LA penetrate. A non fatigued Galaxy side would have punished this Toronto formation. On the other hand, TFC’s defense dealt well with the crosses into the box in this match in comparison to the home tie, with Kocic playing a major role in controlling his box and keeping the ball out of his net.

Man of the MatchMilos Kocic

All in all, a decent Toronto FC performance versus a softer LA Galaxy led to this result. The next round in the semi-finals versus Santos Laguna will be a difficult task especially in the away leg!

 

Toronto FC will now remain on the road and face Seattle on Saturday before returning home for their MLS home opener which leads into the first leg of their CCL semi-finals.

 

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TFC Heads to the CCL Semi-Final!

Posted on 15 March 2012 by Mahmoud Shoblaq

Following the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final tie, Toronto FC headed into LA with a big task after getting a 2-2 result at home! Having to overcome the 2 away goal deficit or simply winning the match was never going to be easy.

With a slow start to the match Ryan Johnson took advantage of a great chance to give TFC the 1-0 lead in the first half. The second half on the other hand had a different feel, where LA realized they had to rise up to the occasion and started putting plenty of pressure on TFC  leading to an own goal by Harden. TFC was resilient with Ryan Johnson continuing to put his stamp on the game and setting up Nick Soolsma for Toronto’s second goal and the game winner!

 

Toronto FC’s game flaw consisted of their high back-line that they were lucky not to have LA penetrate. A non fatigued Galaxy side would have punished this Toronto formation. On the other hand, TFC’s defense dealt well with the crosses into the box in this match in comparison to the home tie, with Kocic playing a major role in controlling his box and keeping the ball out of his net.

Man of the Match: Milos Kocic

All in all, a decent Toronto FC performance versus a softer LA Galaxy led to this result. The next round in the semi-finals versus Santos Laguna will be a difficult task especially in the away leg!

 

Toronto FC will now remain on the road and face Seattle on Saturday before returning home for their MLS home opener which leads into the first leg of their CCL semi-finals.

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Last minute goal sends DC United to a 1-0 opening loss

Posted on 12 March 2012 by Steve Long

It was a classic opening game. The fans came hoping to see signs of a rebirth with new acquisitions and a team style that had finally gelled. They went away disappointed as DC United remained mired in the same ineffective scoring rut that ended the 2011 season.

Kansas City was superior in possession and earned far more good shooting chances. Their own early season rust rendered most of their shots inaccurate, but their possession game was generally sharp and confident. They pressured well and anticipated DC well.

When they had the ball, they exploited the full width of the field. Both teams’ wide midfielders remained wide for the first ten minutes and the possession battle that often begins any MLS game was hard fought and fairly equal.

After that time, United’s Chris Pontius and Andy Najar fell into the same trap that they have for the past two years as they drifted inside, seeking to find more of the ball, only to compress the space available for maneuver and thereby denying creative players like Branko Boskovic room to operate effectively.

From that time forward DC United became the gang that couldn’t pass well and were only saved from a multi-goal defeat by the fact that KC was a gang the couldn’t shoot straight. The conference leaders did encounter a DC defense that seems stronger than last year.

The current back four were under pressure for much of the game and generally covered well, accounting in part for the imperfection of Sporting’s shooting efforts. The same midfield compression that stifled United’s creativity also affected their opponents as the KC attackers were usually in somewhat crowded quarters.

In short, Sporting’s buildup benefited from their better exploitation of width, but United’s defenders were strong enough to pressure KC’s shooters into weaker shot selection and accuracy.

For their own part, DC United’s creative crew, Dwayne DeRosario and Hamdi Salihi were well out of sync. One could almost hear them thinking before reacting when attackers must be proactive to be effective. The real rhythm that makes for scoring success was simply not there.

There were bright notes. Holding midfielder Perry Kitchen was heavily involved throughout the game and generally effective in breaking up or deflecting KC’s buildups. On the other hand, his central midfield compatriot Boskovic seemed ineffectual and was barely noticeable. He spent the game seeking space which was not there. He joined DeRosario and Salihi among the frustrated.

Already an insightful veteran and a cagey creator, Josh Wolff has just been appointed as a player/coach. We conversed at some length on what he has observed when I asked about the team’s failure to exploit width. He acknowledged the problem noting that it is just the beginning of the season, “The only way you can get those sort of things sorted out is to rehearse it, not just in practice, but against real opponents.”

He said he will need to review the videos, but, “We emphasize it (midfield width) as well….Our wide guys are good isolated one on one guys, so the discipline to stay wide, to let the game come to you and the spacing to our midfield and defenders needs to continue to grow. Again, we’ve got a few new guys out there so we haven’t had the time or the repetitions to really get it right. Fortunately for us we’ll get the videos out and take a look at it.”

He believes that new striker Hamdi Salihi, “needs service and we’re gonna have to learn how to construct plays for our wide guys where it’s not just a one on one 30 or 40 yards in and they go and beat a guy to whip one in.

“We’ve gotta create opportunities and advantages for those guys to get good clean looks and balls to whip in to guys like DeRo and Salihi. Their job is to get on the end of it. Over the course of their careers they’ve been extremely good at it.”

He summed it up, “So, there’s plenty to work on. I don’t disagree with the fact that you’ve got to use the width better. Salihi’s attributes are what they are and if we can sort out what’s behind that with service, I think it will be good down the road.”

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Real Salt Lake Stuns Galaxy

Posted on 11 March 2012 by iyeo

Everything seemed to be going well for the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday night.

Opening up the 2012 MLS season as defending champions against a heated foe, the Galaxy came out firing throughout and finally breaking through with a second half goal by Edson Buddle.

But just as quickly and so suddenly, it all fell apart in one 12-minute span. An own goal to tie the match was then followed by two more unanswered goals and just like that, the Galaxy suffered its first loss at home in just over two years, falling to Real Salt Lake 3-1 on Saturday night.

“We hit a wall and made mistakes that were attributed to fatigue,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said.

That fatigue Arena was referring to was the long travel to and back from Toronto following Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions’ League match against Toronto FC. All 11 players who played on Wednesday, including David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane among others, went the full 90 minutes and Arena only made two changes to the lineup for Saturday’s MLS opener. Replacing midfielder Juninho with Marcelo Sarvas and center back Andrew Boyens with Tommy Meyer.

“We were a tired team tonight,” Arena said.

Nevertheless, RSL’s win on Saturday avenges last year’s loss to the Galaxy in the Western Conference Final on the same pitch and makes them the first team to defeat LA at the Home Depot Center since FC Dallas’ 3-0 win over Los Angeles in the 2010 Western Conference Final.

After a wild first half, the Galaxy finally found the back net in the 71st minute. David Beckham’s cross found Edson Buddle in the penalty area and the striker did the rest, heading the ball past a diving Nick Rimando near post to stake LA to the 1-0 lead. However, the Galaxy literally let RSL back into the match, it started in the 73rd minute when Sebastian Velasquez crossed a ball off his left foot into the box, Galaxy right back Sean Franklin attempted to cut it off, only to have the ball go off his right foot, past keeper Josh Saunders and into the inside left netting for an unexpected equalizer.

“I saw Espindola coming in and I tried to beat him to the ball and I just happened to catch the wrong side of the ball,” Franklin said.

That own goal was only the beginning. Seven minutes later, Ned Grabavoy crossed a ball from the left side into the penalty area. Alvaro Saborio was the recipient of that cross, but a last minute challenge from behind by Michael Stephens prevented any shot attempt. The ball however remained in the box and Javier Morales got a shot off just before AJ DeLaGarza could mop up and Morales’ attempt deflected off Saunders and across the goal line to put RSL in the lead. RSL’s third goal game in the 85th minute when Saborio flicked a ball forward, Fabian Espindola sprinted for the ball, then sprinted for goal. Espindola went unchallenged into the penalty area from the left, shot low and succeeded, beating Saunders far post to put the match out of reach.

The first half was full of chances for the Galaxy, but bad luck combined with the play of RSL keeper Nick Rimando prevented Los Angeles from breaking through. LA’s best shots came from Landon Donovan and Marcelo Sarvas, but both attempts were foiled by the crossbar. Mike Magee had a chance himself with a bicycle kick in the 27th minute, but that was denied by Rimando.

“We could’ve put the game away early,” Galaxy defender AJ DeLaGarza said. “They got an unlucky own goal and we kinda unraveled after that.”

The only good news for the Galaxy is that they will get a chance to immediately put this match behind them, as they quickly turn their focus to Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League matchup against Toronto FC, also at the Home Depot Center.

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