CARSON, Calif. — After having chance after chance stifled by the Seattle Sounders FC defense, the LA Galaxy finally managed to find a break through in the 90th minute.
Playing with a man advantage for the final 20 minutes, the Galaxy broke the scoreless deadlock in the final minute of regulation with a diving header from Rafael Garcia that gave the hosts a 1-0 victory on Monday afternoon at The Home Depot Center.
Garcia combined with Galaxy Academy midfielder Raul Mendiola down the left wing on a give-and-go that sent Mendiola toward the end line. Garcia timed his run toward the center of the box and was in perfect position to receive Mendiola’s cross, sending a diving header past goalkeeper Brian Meredith for the only goal of the game.
“It was awkward, I didn’t know to hit it with my leg or [head], so I just kind of dove and it went in,” Garcia said.
The Galaxy went up a man, when Seattle’s Christian Sivebaek was shown a red card in the 69th minute for running through a challenge on defender Bryan Gaul along the sideline. LA used the man advantage, as well as the infusion of substitutes, to create a number of late chances.
Galaxy Postgame Reaction
“We definitely had that advantage in the midfield and I think we were doing a good job of switching the ball and being able to get in behind,” Galaxy forward Adam Cristman said. “It helped us be patient and eventually get that goal.”
Reserve Head Coach Curt Onalfo praised the effort of the fresh legs that came on in the second half.
“Obviously whenever you put subs into the game, you want them to add energy and make a difference and certainly that was the case with all the guys that came into the game,” Onalfo said.
It a was physical back-and-forth game with six cards being shown, three yellow cards to LA and two yellows plus the red going to Seattle. Cristman said that reserve games are sometimes chippier than regular season games.
“Guys are fighting for jobs and fighting for spots and time with their team,” Cristman said. “Everyone wants to show well and sometimes making a statement with your aggressive play can mean something to your coach.”
The Galaxy applied the majority of the pressure in the first half and had the first chance of the game 16 minutes in when they won a free kick on the left wing. Midfielder Hector Jimenez swung the ball into the box where Cristman was unmarked, but he could not get a head to it and the threat was easily killed off.
The tandem of Cristman and Pat Noonan had success running at the edges of Seattle’s defense in the first half, but could not turn any of their chances into goals.
“It was a hot morning and I think we expended a lot of energy in the first half, really putting some pressure on them,” Cristman said. “I felt like with that energy we set the tone of how we wanted to play and really frustrated them.”
Seattle’s two best chances came a minute apart just before the hour mark. In the 58th minute, rookie midfielder Andy Rose drove a powerful long-range shot that forced goalkeeper Bill Gaudette to parry his save around the post for a corner. On the ensuing corner kick, Marc Burch found Roger Levesque at the back post, only for his close range shot to be blocked. A scramble inside the box ensued before LA were eventually able to clear the ball away from danger.
“We talked about being compact, from our forwards to our defenders and also from east to west. The more you are able to do that, the harder it is on the opponent,” Onalfo said. “You think about it, we didn’t give away a whole lot. We were sound defensively and created our chances going forward.”
Making his second appearance in a Galaxy Reserve League game, Mendiola pestered Seattle’s right backs with runs down the sideline. He eventually turned one of those runs into the game-winning assist.
“He’s a young player, he’s got a lot to learn, but he’s got great instincts going forward,” said Onalfo of Mendiola, who entered the game in the 77th minute for Kyle Nakazawa.
Garcia, who also received praise from Onalfo for taking advantage of the time he had on the field, was pleased just to be able to play a role in helping his team get three well-deserved points.
“Whenever I step on the field, my mentality is just to help the team in any way that they need help and get those points,” Garcia said. “We were fortunate enough to get that win today.”
The Galaxy Reserves are back in action on Tuesday, May 8 when they take on the San Jose Earthquakes Reserves. That game will be played on University Field #1 at The Home Depot Center with kickoff scheduled for 11 a.m.