SANDY, UT – “We shot ourselves in the foot.”
LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena pulled no punches when assessing his team’s second half breakdown in the 3-3 draw with Real Salt Lake on Wednesday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Fueled by a masterful performance from Giovani dos Santos, the Galaxy led 3-1 at one point in the second half, only to see three points disappear into the thin Salt Lake air as RSL scored two late goals off defensive errors to earn the draw. After coming just seconds away from a valuable road win, the Galaxy couldn’t help but hang their heads after dropping points.
“We walk away with a point when we should be walking away with three. Not an easy game, our guys worked really hard. It’s a shame that they didn’t reward themselves with three points,” Arena said. “We could have been better on both of those plays...They’ve been through this enough this year. They should have it right. We’re in the 28th game of the season. This should not be a mystery at this point.”
Ema Boateng had Los Angeles up early and cruising in the first half, but the game spiraled out of contro in the second half. RSL found their way back into the match after Brian Rowe’s costly error led to a penalty for Joao Plata and Salt Lake’s first goal of the match. Despite the hosts pushing hard for the go-ahead goal, it was the Galaxy who struck twice with two finishes from dos Santos.
The Galaxy could not hold the lead, however, as Salt Lake cut the lead to one on a blast from Joao Plata and then equalized on a stoppage-time finish from Juan Martinez. The final sequence proved controversial after Chris Wingert appeared to foul Dos Santos in the penalty area to win the ball, before the ball ended up at the feet of Martinez who beat Rowe, with a low effort that slipped under the keeper’s left side.
“It was definitely frustrating and heartbreaking,” Rowe said. “My mindset after I made the first mistake to give up the penalty was to get back into the game and close it out. As a goalie, you need to have a short memory.
“After that, we put ourselves in a good spot to score two goals, and there were a lot of things that we could have done better to close out the game, but in the end, I’m the guy that when I need to make the play, I need to make the play. In the end, it’s going to come down to me, and I expect better out of myself. I put my hand up for this one. The team worked too hard tonight to not get three points.”
The Galaxy face a quick turnaround with a match against Orlando City SC at StubHub Center on Sunday, a game which they admit has massive importance after Wednesday’s draw.
“We have seven games left in this season, and we need to improve,” Dos Santos said. “We’ve got to do our best against Orlando.”