MEXICO CITY— The LA Galaxy acquired everything they needed during their trip down to Mexico, save for a result.
The Galaxy fell 2-1 to Liga MX side Pumas UNAM on Tuesday in a closed-door scrimmage at the Estadio Olímpico Universario in Mexico City. Pumas forward Ismael Sosa scored in both halves while Galaxy rookie center back Kyle Venter added one late for the visitors.
“I think that it was a good exercise for our team,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. “Obviously, the altitude was very challenging, but Pumas has a good team and this was a good training exercise.”
Starting a largely first team side against a mix of Pumas regulars and reserves, the Galaxy controlled the early proceedings and were unlucky not to score twice in the early going. After just five minutes, Landon Donovan fired a cross to Rob Friend but his header sailed over of the bar. Minutes later, Samuel nearly tallied when again Donovan orchestrated play in midfield, finding the Brazilian who turned a defender and lashed a shot that missed the net of Pumas goalkeeper Alfredo Saldivar by inches.
As the match wore on, the elevation began to take a toll on the Galaxy as Pumas asserted themselves in midfield and began to dominate possession. Just past the half-hour mark, UNAM forced a Galaxy turnover in midfield, which led to a counter spearheaded by midfielder Diego Lagos. The Mexican midfielder played a pinpoint cross to a waiting Sosa who unleashed a closed-range shot past LA goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.
“The elevation was a big factor. We looked like we struggled a lot; but then again, they’re a very good team and did well for each other. We tried keeping the ball, but we didn’t play our game,” starting midfielder Baggio Hušidić said. “We’ll see this Mexican style [of play] in about a month so it was a great fitness test for us. It was great to see a new environment and what we’ll be facing the next time we head down here.”
In the second half, Arena trotted out an entirely new lineup that played UNAM fairly evenly until the 70th minute when Sosa struck again, this time off of a corner kick that he nodded past Galaxy ‘keeper Brian Perk. Once they were down by two goals, the Galaxy began to capitalize on the space provided by the Pumas defense as forward Chandler Hoffman repeatedly tested the Liga MX side’s back four.
Finally in the 78th minute, the Galaxy got on the board off of a corner kick as Marcelo Sarvas launched a curling cross into the penalty area and connected with the head of Venter who scored his first-ever goal in a Galaxy uniform.
Said Venter, “[The goal] was something that we should have had a long time ago given the height advantage that we have. It was a shame that we couldn’t have gotten more in the first half, but Marcelo played a great ball to me along the back post that was an easy tap in header.”
The Galaxy resume preseason play on Saturday in Fresno when they take on the San Jose Earthquakes for the Central California Cup.
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com.