The LA Galaxy hit its first goal.
Coming of a 2020 season that was the worst in franchise history, the LA Galaxy came into this season with a new head coach in Greg Vanney that had experienced the sort of success in Toronto that the Galaxy had grown accustomed to, Vanney set a goal for the team to reach a certain number of points by the halfway point of the season.
After Wednesday night, the Galaxy reached that goal, and they have Efrain Alvarez to thank for that. Alvarez, just days from representing Mexico in the recently concluded CONCACAF Gold Cup, returned to the Galaxy, got the start and delivered a second half goal that the Galaxy rode to an eventual 1-0 win at Dignity Health Sports Park.
“Happy to get our goal, but it means nothing at this point in the season,” Galaxy keeper Jonathan Bond said. “I thought it was a really ambitious goal for a team that’s in transition, trying to play a completely different style with a new manager, new players, new style. I liked the positivity and enthusiasm behind that target but I was thinking okay we can go for that target and maybe just miss it, that’s great, but here we are.”
With the win, the Galaxy reached 31 points, nine more than they had all of last season. The three points earned on Wednesday were also critical for the Galaxy, as they not only maintained their grip on third place in the Western Conference, but also pulled to within two points of both the Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City for the top spot in the Conference.
“That’s what’s in front of us now,” Vanney said “Like I said when we were a very small group that hadn’t pulled a lot of pieces together at the beginning and the put a target out there that was like 1.82 or 1.8 something points per game which would take us to this I thought it’s an ambitious number, given the fact that we don’t really, we haven’t really pulled the team together yet and nevertheless this group has shown a lot of character and compete and battle over the first half of the season as we pull the pieces together and gotten to a good spot.”
The Galaxy broke through in the 53rd minute thanks to some pinpoint passing between Alvarez and Sacha Kljestan. Alvarez slowly dribbled towards the penalty area, Alvarez then played a ball to Kljestan, who then passed it back to Alvarez, who had gotten behind the Salt Lake defense. Alvarez took a touch before before firing a left-footed shot just outside the six-yard box that beat keeper Zac MacMath far post to edge the Galaxy ahead.
The Galaxy thought they had a goal in the 19th minute, but was called back for offsides. Pressure from Alvarez and Kevin Cabral forced RSL defender Marcelo Silva into a turnover. Kljestan got to the ball and immediately touched a ball to Alvarez, who then played a short pass to Cabral and he sent the shot past MacMath into the back net. However, referee Nima Saghafi waived off the goal, as Alvarez was in an offside position when he received Kljestan’s pass.
“I thought we started the game, you know, fairly conservative on the defensive side,” Vanney said. “We didn’t get out and start pressing all over the place, we kept our lines pretty tidy and pretty tight and controlled the game on the defensive side. We managed the game, got to halftime zeroes and then made some adjustments and the group came out and looked sharper.”
The Galaxy will push further for more teams goals starting on Sunday when they host the Vancouver Whitecaps.