Sunday night’s match was less of a must-play and more of a can’t-lose game for Galaxy.
After three straight losses, all to MLS Western Conference opponents, the Galaxy entered their game against Atlanta United below the playoff line for the first time this season, closer to last place than first.
Another loss and the spin could become irreversible.
“If you look at it purely as a score then I would say it’s obviously urgent,” admitted Galaxy coach Greg Vanney. “We all feel that urgency.”
And the Galaxy played that way against a sluggish, struggling Atlanta team that led an early goal from Kévin Cabral and a late goal from Dejan Joveljic to a 2-0 win before a 24,122 announcement at Dignity Health Sports Park.
Even with Sunday’s win, the losing streak — the longest in nearly two years and part of a slide that has seen the Galaxy win just four of their last 13 games in all competitions — has left the team in a hole deep enough that it could some take time to climb out. As a result, Vanney preaches patience to follow that urgency.
“Maybe we need to understand where we are at this moment and where we are,” he said before the game. “You can’t run before you walk. You can’t sprint before you can jog.
“We have to find consistency. We find consistency, we find the pieces that really fit together, we could go from a marginal playoff team to a contender very quickly.”
Time becomes a factor. The Galaxy has only made the playoffs once since 2017, and while the win over Atlanta put them seventh in conference standings, ahead of Portland in the tiebreak, their place is tenuous at nearly two-thirds into the season.
“I don’t know what the total score will be at the end, but you have to play every game to take as many points as possible to tie it up,” Vanney said. “It’s a long season and there are a lot of bumps and bruises and ups and downs. But I think we’re all on point now because we can see we’re in the second half of the season and you can see the finish line isn’t too far away.
Any troubles the Galaxy (9-9-3) have had this season aren’t tied to expenses. They have the second highest team payroll in MLS. But they’re spending more than 20% of that money — $4.65 million — on designated players Cabral and Douglas Costa, who together missed nearly as many minutes as they played.
On Sunday, they joined captain Javier “Chicharito” Hernández – who was returning after a two-game absence caused by COVID-19 – in the line-up in what was the first time all three Galaxy DPs had started together in more than two months. And it paid off as Cabral put the team ahead in the seventh minute with his first MLS goal since October.
It was also the first goal the Galaxy have scored in four encounters with Atlanta. Costa made it possible, playing a deft pass in front of an oncoming Hernández, whose right-footed shot from around 10 yards out was averted by goalkeeper Rocco Ríos Novo for Atlanta after a long right-hand save (6-9-6). . But Ríos Novo couldn’t control the rebound that hit the left post of Cabral, who was already celebrating Hernández’s obvious goal.
Cabral regrouped, dropped his arms to his sides, and tapped in the rebound on his second jump.
That boded well as the Galaxy started the night 7-1-1 when they scored first. Another good omen was the play of newly acquired Uruguayan midfielder Gaston Brugman, who manned Cabral’s goal with two defenders and helped score the goal. He played well in 64 minutes in his MLS debut.
But the Galaxie could not muster any more from Ríos Novo until late in injury time, when Joveljic’s ninth goal sealed victory as the top team.
Ríos Novo, an LA native, ended his career with four saves. Galaxy keeper Jonathan Bond had three saves in his seventh clean sheet of the season.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/soccer/story/2022-07-24/galaxy-snap-three-game-losing-streak-atlanta-united Galaxy defeat Atlanta United to snap three-match losing streak