CARSON, Calif. - Two different teams played as the LA Galaxy on Saturday night at StubHub Center. In the first half, LA looked to be in the same disarray that has plagued them all season, only to turn it around completely after a couple of substitutions and the half-time break.
After giving up two early goals to Chicago’s David Accam and Nemanja Nikolic, LA Head Coach Curt Onalfo made his second first-half tactical substitution of 2017, replacing captain Jelle Van Damme with Dave Romney in the 33rd minute. The move, which spurred them toward a 2-2 draw with the Chicago Fire, came as a surprise of Romney.
“As a defender, when you sit on the bench game after game, you don’t really get subbed in unless someone gets hurt or something weird happens,” Romney said. “Mentally, to turn on that quick, and just kinda get the legs moving as fast as you can is pretty tough.”
Onalfo explained his decision to make that substitution: “I expect all players to be right from minute one. If guys aren’t, I’m the leader of the team, and I have to make substitutions to get our group to where it needs to be. We conceded two goals early on, and I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen moving forward”
Even after that substitution, the Galaxy still looked listless and disjointed on the field. Add an injury to Jermaine Jones that forced LA’s second substitution, for Emmanuel Boateng, and the night didn’t look promising. Without two of their top players, and Chicago playing extremely well, it didn't look like the Galaxy had much chance to come back in the second half.
At half-time, Onalfo calmly relayed his desire for the team to increase their energy, and emphasized that if they got one goal, then a second one wouldn’t be far behind, and they could at least earn a point. Despite that optimism, no player in that Galaxy locker room was happy. In fact, their anger seemed to really light the spark that Onalfo had lit.
“It was pretty angry,” said Daniel Steres, of the halftime mood. “We were getting on ourselves a little bit in the first half. It was anger, but it was ‘okay, we gotta do something now.’ I think that was the part where we turned a little bit. Instead of getting down on ourselves, we got a little angry, and we flipped the page.”
Once the second half started, LA's hunger was apparent. Their added intensity threw Chicago for a loop, and LA came all the way back to even the score, with two goals on corner kicks, the first by Steres and the second, Giovani dos Santos
“The mentality changed,” said Gyasi Zardes. “Once we came in the locker room during halftime, we had a different mindset going out there for the second half.”
Onalfo praised his squad’s fight in the second half, and knows that if they play with that team mindset, regardless of who’s in the lineup, they’ll see more success.
“We became a team tonight. That’s the Galaxy team that you’ll see moving forward.”