PORTLAND, Ore. – There was no hiding the anger in the LA Galaxy locker room after their 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers.
A Robbie Keane goal in stoppage time appeared to seal three points for LA and their first victory in Portland since July 2012, but with the seconds ticking away in added time, the course of the game changed.
A turnover by Portland resulted in a breakaway by Juninho, who charged up field uncontested but as he approached the penalty area, Darlington Nagbe knocked him down. Although replays showed contact, referee Armando Villarreal waved play on and moments later, a breakdown on LA’s part resulted in a goal by Portland’s Diego Valeri to help the home side earn a point.
Following the match, the frustration was palpable in the Galaxy locker room.
“Our team played very well, but the referee has to give us that call on Juninho. It’s at least a foul or a yellow card or red card,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. “We have to manage the game better at the end, we had five minutes of extra time, but listen, we fell asleep at the end of the game. A bunch of guys can do better on the last play, but we played very well and should have walked away with three points.”
Even though Arena admitted that LA needed to perform better at the close when Valeri was able to get a handle on the ball despite numerous Galaxy attempts to clear, when asked about Villarreal’s decisive call on the apparent Juninho foul, he had just three words.
“He blew it,” said the Galaxy boss.
The run that led to the apparent foul by Nagbe was the unfortunate highlight of a strong performance from Juninho who was active throughout the match breaking up play in midfield and helping spark attacks on the counter.
But did he feel the contact as he broke away alone on goal? Definitely.
“It was a good opportunity to score, but I think the guy pushed me and I could not shoot on goal,” said Juninho. “I think that [the referee] made a huge mistake.”
But for all their protests and the frustration, the Galaxy admit that for the team to move forward in 2014, they must be better in the closing stages of matches.
“It’s a shame that we didn’t get the three points,” said Arena. “We can fault the referee as much as we want, but we were still in control at the end of the game where we could have denied them a goal scoring opportunity.”