LOS ANGELES – It was ecstasy and vindication for Diego Polenta on Friday night at Dignity Health Sports Park.
The LA Galaxy’s Uruguayan center back captured the game-winning goal in the final moments of a contentious clash with the Houston Dynamo to help seal Los Angeles’ fifth consecutive victory. The match was short on intensity as both teams traded penalties to set up the deadlock, which was ultimately broken by Polenta’s header of a perfectly weighted Jonathan dos Santos cross in the 88th minute.
After driving his driven header past Joe Willis, his emotions were there for the crowd to see, and in the postgame, Polenta reflected on how much the goal meant to him.
“The moment I scored a lot of things came to my head. The moment I wanted to leave soccer,” he said referencing his six-month hiatus from the game he took last year. “And now I am smiling again, as I said before for me it’s a great club that came after me, and I am very happy, I am enjoying. But more than anything I am enjoying being with the team, working with everyone day in and day out.”
The goal came on the heels of yet another strong showing for the Uruguayan who has impressed in his early stint in Los Angeles –particularly after a pair of hiccups in the opening two games that led to opposition goals.
His tally—and his ability to rebound from a tough start to the season— meant plenty to head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto who spoke glowingly about his center back.
“I think he’s growing. We know when at the start of the season, he would grow in the level because he hadn’t played in the last six months, and he showed up with us in January, and he started to training," Schelotto said. "But, I think game by game he’s getting better. He played really good when he played one on one. He’s a winner. So I thought he could get to score, because he tries even when he went for set pieces, always. He’s a winner.”
But for the Uruguayan, the labels and praise don’t mean much; Polenta places more stock on the journey and the growth he experiences along the way.
“My teammates joked that I never play like that, and tomorrow maybe it’s not the case," he said. "So, soccer is like that. There are times things will go well for me, and there will be times when things won’t go so well. We are all human, and we all make mistakes.
“I am at ease; I am working hard. As for the goal, of course, it’s great to score especially in the last minutes of the game. But I think the most important thing here it’s the team, and I feel very happy that I was able to help get the three points – which the team won, Diego Polenta didn’t win.”