A disturbing trend had crept into the Southland over the course of the MLS season. On numerous occasions, the Los Angeles Galaxy have given up late goals that cost them a positive result. Sunday night, though, the Galaxy bucked the trend, holding on to a late lead to earn a 2-1 victory over Kansas City the Kansas City Wizards.
The Galaxy fought for three points against a pesky Kansas City side that refused to fade away into the night. Goals by Herculez Gomez and Marcelo Saragosa sandwiched a Josh Wolff strike for the Wizards to arrive at the final score line.
The win came on the heels of an embarrassing loss Wednesday night in Dallas. On Sunday, the Galaxy, who were obviously exhausted due to their recent schedule came out with very little energy to open the game.
"It was a very difficult game. I think you could see that the two teams were very tired," said Galaxy coach Steve Sampson after the game. "You can see that the season is starting to take its toll. But it was important for us to get the three points and this is why you saw the players that we put on the field for the most part that will be the same look on Wednesday."
By virtue of their good run in the U.S. Open Cup, the Galaxy have earned a late season mid-week game against FC Dallas in the Cup Final. Still, players and coaches alike insisted that Wednesday night never entered their minds heading into tonight.
"The only thing I wanted to do was to look onto Kansas City, nothing else. All we wanted to do was come out here and win," Gomez said. "Win individual battles, win 50/50 balls, just win the game overall and we did that. We pulled together as a team and got the three points."
The Galaxy were outplayed in the first half, managing just one shot on goal. That shot came from the right boot of Gomez though and gave the Galaxy a 1-0 lead at halftime. The Galaxy came out of the locker room with more energy at the start of the second half, but couldn't add an insurance goal.
Then, as has happened so often to the Galaxy this year, they gave up a second half equalizer. Wolff buried a close range shot into the back of the net midway through the half to level the score. Instead of hanging their heads, the Galaxy pinned their ears back and reclaimed the lead just two minutes later.
"I'm glad that after they equalized we were able to show some character and come back and get the game winner," Sampson said. "It was Marcelo Saragosa's first goal ever for the Galaxy and I thought he came in and played beautifully, defensively and offensively."
After Saragosa's 74th-minute goal, the Galaxy frantically defended their lead. What made the task that much more difficult was that six minutes of stoppage time were added onto the game by referee Abbey Okulaja.
"I've never seen 6 minutes of stoppage time," he said. "I thought it was way too much."
The Galaxy players weren't that surprised by how much time was added onto the game though. Veteran defender Chris Albright recounted his team's recent struggles in stoppage time.
"I wasn't shocked. Stoppage time always seems to go against us," Albright said. "We held on barely. They had a couple chances on free kicks that we have to sort out, but overall we were able to keep them out, so we did our job."
The Galaxy managed to protect their slim lead for over 20 minutes, and that will be needed come playoff time. Though the Galaxy didn't play their best game of the season, they still found a way to win.
"Tonight was different than how games have gone recently where we've dominated then given up a silly goal," said defender Todd Dunivant. "It was nice to get a result even when you're not playing your best. We were able to hold them off in the end, which is something this team necessarily hasn't done, so it's a good sign for us. Especially come playoff time, you have to bunker in sometimes and just weather the storm."
The ability to win ugly could prove to be vital as they close out their season and head into the playoffs. But before that happens, the Galaxy will need to regroup for Wednesday night's Open Cup Final, which should be another late-season test of their character.
Greg Daurio is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.