Landon Donovan called it the “same old story,” and it's not a tale the LA Galaxy enjoys.
The defending MLS Cup champions took the lead twice Saturday afternoon at D.C. United, the second time in the 81st minute, and defensive errors again were costly as they dropped two more points in a disappointing 2-2 draw.
The result left them five points behind Seattle and four in back of Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference, and they could drop to 5th place before the night is over -- if Portland wins at Chivas USA and Colorado beats FC Dallas.
Robbie Keane struck early, but Omar Gonzalez's mistake enabled Chris Pontius to equalize just before halftime, and a poorly engineered offside trap let Kyle Porter nod home the decisive goal just three minutes after Michael Stephens provided a 2-1 lead.
“At the end of the game, we're positioned to have three points, and we need to do better in those situations,” said Galaxy manager Bruce Arena, whose lost right back A.J. DeLaGarza to a dislocated left elbow near the start and Donovan to a lightly sprained left ankle at the end of the first half. “Give D.C. United credit. They played real hard for 90 minutes, and we had to battle real hard after positioning ourselves poorly at the end of the first half.
“I would call [Gonzalez's mistake] giving away a goal, but give Pontius credit as well for stripping Omar and finishing off the play. Then we got the second goal, which should be enough to give us three points, and we failed to keep them off the scoreboard at the end of the game. That's disappointing.”
The Galaxy were clearly in charge until Pontius stripped Gonzalez of the ball a ways outside the LA box, raced one-on-one toward the goal, rounded LA goalkeeper Jaime Penedo and deposited it into an open net.
Arena was asked afterward if it was a “teaching moment” for Gonzalez.
“If it's a teaching moment, he failed. He got a bad grade,” Arena replied. “He's experienced enough as a player now that he shouldn't be in that position.”
Gonzalez said he was trying to change how the Galaxy were playing, and it backfired on him.
“I thought we were playing a lot of long ball at the time, and I wanted to start getting the ball on the ground and start playing it, but I picked the wrong time to do it,” he said on LA's postgame telecast. “The ball came in, I was concentrating on the ball, and I didn't take a look at who was around me and didn't see him. That's the way it happened.
“Obviously, I need to not be so lackadaisical there.”
Porter headed home Perry Kitchen's cross after the Galaxy attempted an offside trap. Leonardo was slow to move forward, keeping Porter onside. It was the 18th MLS goal LA has surrendered in the final 15 minutes and stoppage this season, and those goals have cost them 14 points.
“Eight minutes to go with a lead, and sort of the same old story,” Donovan said. “We'll look at the tape and see what happened on the play, but we can't keep doing that.”
Scott French covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com.