And thanks to the first MLS goal by 22-year-old forward Kai Koreniuk, it was a game with a happy 1-0 ending for Galaxy head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who says he’s “100 percent calm” in his position.
“I know how soccer is and I know how the media is in situations like the ones we’ve had to experience recently,” Schelotto told media in Spanish during his postgame press conference. “It’s soccer and I understand it. I have nothing to say. We know what we’re doing. We have a number of young players who we’re playing … All of us have to understand the moment we’re experiencing and the year we’re living through — that it’s a shortened season and that we’re playing every three days and all that. Obviously, we have to think about the future, but I’m 100 percent calm and working day by day to give my best and to be able to have a great rest of the year.”
The hero of the day, Koreniuk, was brought on for the final three minutes of the game and made the most of his opportunity after it was revealed he approached Schelotto a week ago to ask him what he could do to get into the lineup. Goals like the one he scored Sunday should only help his case for more playing time.
Kai Koreniuk celebrates his game-winner against Vancouver | Gary A. Vasquez - USA Today Sports Images
And while the Koreniuk sub worked out for Schelotto, it wasn’t the personnel move that got the most attention during the post-game press conference. More questions were focused on the benching of Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez in favor of Colombian Yony Gonzalez, who had played on the wing in recent matches.
Chicharito eventually came on for an injured Gonzalez in the 50th minute, but Schelotto was blunt when it came to explaining his starting XI decision:
“We decided to play with one central striker,” said Schelotto, citing Vancouver’s strong defensive organization and shape as the chief reason. “During trainings I saw Yony Gonzalez was doing well and I made the decision that Yony plays and Chicharito waits. There wasn’t any predetermined plan as to what time a sub was going to happen. I was going to allow myself to see and let each player grow into the game and then make a decision if we needed Javier or not. The injury accelerated the time he came into the game.
“The decisions one makes are always about more than what’s happening inside or outside the locker room,” Schelotto continued. “They have to do with doing the best for the team. And I thought it was best for the team that Yony Gonzalez plays and not Javier.”
Chicharito finished the game with more shots than Gonzalez (4-2) and also had the best opportunity to score in the 84th minute, skying a tasty Cristian Pavon cross which found him in stride and wide open in front of goal.
Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez missed a big opportunity in front of goal vs. Vancouver | Gary A. Vasquez - USA Today Sports Images
Veteran Sacha Kljestan admitted that the pressure and stress began to wear on the Galaxy with every minute that elapsed without a breakthrough goal. Koreniuk, who Kljestan complimented as a “very good finisher” and “very good in the box,” took care of capping the overall improved team showing compared to recent outings.
“It was important to show our fans a better performance in regards to attitude, and mentality and playing for each other and giving a little bit more than perhaps we have,” said Kljestan, who felt the three-man midfield he formed with Perry Kitchen and Sebastian Lletget gave the team more balance and more defensive organization.
“Today we really hit it off and we were fighting for every ball,” said Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann, a starter for the second straight game. “I think the guys realized ‘Hey, we have a losing streak. But before that we had a winning streak. We’re a damn good team. We can do this.’”
The Galaxy are still in last place in the West, but they are now just three points out of a playoff spot with six matches to go. It’s plenty of time to scale the standings and they’ll have a full week of training before their next match-up: the final regular season El Trafico of 2020 on Sunday at LAFC (3:30 p.m. ET on ABC, TSN2).
“I think we deserved to win today and it gives us some confidence for the next game,” said Schelotto, who praised his team’s reaction and organization. “We lost six in a row, but before [that] we won four in a row. Now we need to win some games in a row and then think about if it’s possible or no [to make] the playoffs.”