CARSON, Calif. - The Los Angeles Galaxy put in a solid effort for 91 minutes on Saturday afternoon against D.C. United. Unfortunately for the sellout crowd that again filled The Home Depot Center, that was 60 seconds short of what was required to get a result.
In the second minute of second half stoppage time, Freddy Adu sent a deflected shot flashing past Kevin Hartman to give United a 1-0 victory that was truly against the run of play. United didn't even register their first shot on goal until a minute before Adu's strike, and chances for D.C. were few and far between for the away side on the afternoon.
Conversely, the Galaxy continued to struggle with their finishing and wasted a number of opportunities that could have secured at least a draw Saturday, if not the full three points.
The absence of Landon Donovan is starting to become a glaring defect in the Galaxy attack, as the Green and Gold have only managed to beat one team all season without the U.S. international - expansion side and cellar dweller Chivas USA.
"I thought up until the 90th minute it was a good performance, not a great performance. We created a number of opportunities. Defensively for most of the match we had United fairly well controlled," said Galaxy head coach Steve Sampson after the match. "I think we got a little greedy towards the end and started looking for the win, and got caught very flat in the midfield and allowed them to counter."
One goal shouldn't have been enough for United to get a win. Early opportunities went by the wayside for the Galaxy. On consecutive plays in the early stages of the first half, Hercules Gomez and Cobi Jones both failed to put clear cut chances on net that could have given them an early lead and a boost of confidence.
"The game was managed. We have to do a better job of finishing out opportunities," said Sampson. "It's something we work on constantly. It's just a matter of having that level of composure in front of the goal."
The Galaxy looked shaken in the locker room, quiet and downtrodden. It was the second time in three weeks that Los Angeles has given up a stoppage time goal. Two weekends ago it was the New England Revolution who scored late to steal a draw; on Saturday, Adu and United stole the win. The recent results have left a lot of questions as to the direction that this team is heading in.
"Heading into a tough stretch, we're going to find out what we're all about," said Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant. "We've had opportunities and let them slip away, where as I don't think we've come out and done that to other teams. I don't know what it is, but zero goals at home is unacceptable."
There isn't much time for the Galaxy to regroup, as they head cross-country to face the Revolution again on Wednesday night in their last game before the All-Star break.
The main difference from the 1-1 draw two weeks ago is that the U.S. national team stars from both sides should be available for the game. The addition of Donovan into the lineup might be the confidence boost the Galaxy need, but he will still absent for a number of matches over the final portion of the season due to World Cup qualifying.
"We need to find someone to score goals," said Chris Albright. "I think at this point, the defense has been doing a good job. We need to find a way to get results without (Donovan)."
With just one win in their last seven matches, the Galaxy are heading the wrong direction for a team that had championship aspirations at the beginning of the season. Yet Dunivant was quick to remind that there is about half of the season left to play, and with the way the playoffs work, it's all about playing your best soccer when it matters most.
"In the grand scheme of things we're right in the hunt. We've got a lot of season to go. It's all about peaking at the right time," Dunivant said. "If we can do that, this will just be one part of the season, and we have to look at it like that."
Although it was the first home loss of the season for the season - and indeed, the first home loss of the Sampson era in Los Angeles - it likely comes as no real shock. The Galaxy haven't been getting results for more than a month, and on Saturday, their struggles were amplified by a moment of brilliance from Freddy Adu.
Greg Daurio is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.