CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy defeated Minnesota United 3-2 Saturday night at Dignity Health Sports Park. The storylines were not in Los Angeles’ favor heading into the match: a raging Minnesota side coming to town with two of the Galaxy’s designated players, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romain Alessandrini, unavailable due to injury. Plus, the Galaxy were coming off a 2-0 defeat in Dallas. Nonetheless, LA (2-1-0, 6 points) found a way to win in front of the announced home crowd of 21,177.
As head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto suggested during the week, Uriel Antuna started the game at forward, attempting to fill the shoes of the injured Ibrahimovic. As the game progressed, Antuna gave MLS veteran defender Ike Opara, who joined Minnesota (2-1-0, 6 points) in the offseason, a run for his money with increased pressure throughout the match.
The first half was a clear demonstration of organization from the Galaxy’s new coaching staff. The team maintained its shape well on both halves of the field, but passing in the attacking half was much cleaner than it had been so far in the season. They had a total of 14 opportunities in the first half alone, but the scoring didn’t come until the 36th minute — after Jonathan Dos Santos scored a penalty kick.
“I thought Joe (Corona) and Jona (Dos Santos) were fantastic and, you know, it gives us all a break, a breather,” Sebastian Lletget said of the team’s performance. “If we keep attacking and losing the ball, we keep putting our defense under pressure and it’s just not going to help us. So, having that possession, I think, made a huge difference.”
The second goal came as a result of a passing clinic by the Galaxy just at the end of the first half. In a string of more than 20 passes, Emmanuel Boateng switched the ball over to Rolf Feltscher, who slotted it in for Chris Pontius to score with his chest. The string of possession may have been the most cohesive play the Galaxy has had to date this season.
Minnesota made sure to make their mark in the second half. Jan Gregus took a long-distance strike in the 75th minute, one which was a little too hot for goalkeeper David Bingham to handle and found its way into the back of the net. The tempo changed for Minnesota, and the Loons looked dangerous the rest of the match.
Lletget, who played the entire match with a broken nose, found a response to Minnesota’s increased pressure. He buried a cross from Antuna, putting the score at 3-1 in the 81st minute.
The Loons made things even more interesting in the 87th minute, when second-half substitute Angelo Rodriguez found the back of the net to make the score 3-2, but the LA Galaxy held on to maintain their victory.
Schelotto spoke very highly of his side during the postmatch news conference, even saying the first half was “perfect.”
“At halftime, I talked with the players saying, ‘This 45 (minutes) was perfect,’ because we scored twice and we kept the ball, we played offense and Minnesota couldn’t do something with the game,” Schelotto said. “In the second half, maybe we gave them some advantage, but I am very happy because the team is growing, they are getting my idea and they can do it in the game.”
Perhaps the first-half performance was a sign of things to come for the Galaxy, as they begin to settle in to their new tactical staff. Coming up for the Galaxy is an international break, during which both Lletget and Dos Santos will be with their respective national teams and the rest of the LA side will get a short rest before the next MLS match on March 31 against 2018 MLS Cup finalist Portland.