LOS ANGELES – With a minute left of regular time in Thursday’s Los Angeles derby duel at Banc of California Stadium, LAFC debutant Andre Horta snapped a left-footed shot from outside the LA Galaxy penalty box that looked to be the third goal that had been eluding his team all night.
In the end — like Adama Diomande’s wicked effort in the 76th minute — Horta’s strike hit the woodwork.
“Andre Horta is going to be a very very good player for us,” Bob Bradley said in the introduction to his press conference following the match. “I feel very bad for him tonight.”
It wasn’t only the near-miss on Bradley’s mind.
The Portuguese midfielder’s poor back pass in the 86th minute was a gift for Ola Kamara, who then rounded Tyler Miller — who had moments earlier bravely deflected a chance Zlatan Ibrahimovic had gifted his Norwegian teammate on the door step — to put in the equalizer.
“He’s young,” Bradley said of Horta’s ill-timed mistake. “He got a ball under pressure and thought that was a safe way out.”
Carlos Vela says LAFC players started to remember their defeat in March after giving up the opener.— Adam Serrano (@AdamSerrano) July 27, 2018
“If the game was five minutes longer, we would have lost for sure.”
The 21-year-old Designated Player has been working his way to match fitness after playing a full European season in Portugal and tonight was the first opportunity the LAFC staff felt he was fit enough to see action.
“As a young player, you have to learn from things,” added Bradley. “Everybody goes through it.”
Horta’s introduction came in the 76th minute for Lee Nguyen — who put LAFC up 2-0 with a sneaky free kick that caught the visitors off guard following Carlos Vela’s headed opener — and it was Horta’s response from the mistake, helping the team push for a winner, that Bradley felt was more indicative of both the midfielder’s potential and where LAFC needed to break through.
“Let’s not let the whole discussion just turn into a poor back pass at 2-1,” said Bradley. “[We had] chances to get to three, which on a night like tonight would have been very important.”
LAFC’s two near-misses came on either side of two Galaxy goals, improbably leveling another hotly contested derby matchup between the two SoCal rivals that began in similar fashion as March’s meeting.
Four minutes before Kamara’s late leveler Thursday, the Galaxy’s opener began from another LAFC miscue, this time by defender Walker Zimmerman, who lost track of the ball only for Ibrahimovic — who had been held in check all night — to pounce and start a move that led to Romain Alessandrini’s goal.
“We had a very good performance the first eighty minutes,” Zimmerman said after the match. “It didn’t feel like they created too many chances on their own. I feel like their chances came off our mistakes. Sometimes that’s the game but for us, this is not a reflection of the mentality of our team.”
Both Zimmerman and Bradley spoke to LAFC’s need to dig deep and finish games off when they’re ahead, but also to find a third goal that might have killed off several games where they’ve only been able to score twice, allowing the opponent to get back into matches late.
“We have ourselves to blame again,” said Bradley. “If our football continues in the right way, if we still make the right passes, the right choices, we get the third goal.”
Horta and his teammates will get further chances in the coming weeks, but they’ll have to do so without Mark-Anthony Kaye. In the foul that led to Nguyen’s first goal for his new club, the Canadian midfielder suffered an ankle fracture that will require surgery.
For Bradley, the Kaye injury only added an extra layer frustration on a night where the home side didn’t feel their rivals deserved a share of the spoils.
“It’s on us,” said Bradley. “The last thing you’re getting from me tonight is a beautiful message about the opponent.”