Robbie Keane reacts when he missed his penalty kick against Real Salt Lake on Saturday, March 8 at Stub Hub Center in Carson, Calif. (Rafael Orellana/Living Out Loud LA)
Bad habits are difficult to break. Just ask the Los Angeles Galaxy.
After wasting countless opportunities when they were eliminated from last year’s MLS Playoffs by Real Salt Lake, the Galaxy again failed to cash in on a dominant first half that included fourteen attempts on goal and wasted a last-second penalty to lose 1-0 in the opening game of the 2014 MLS season Saturday night at the Stubhub Center in Carson, Calif.
Marcelo Sarvas had the first opportunity of the game in the 5th minute for the Galaxy when his blast from 30 yards sailed just over the crossbar.
The Galaxy continued to overwhelm the claret-and-cobalt offensively.
Gyasi Zardes exploited Salt Lake’s defensive vulnerabilities early on with his nifty dribbling from the right flank.
Robbie Keane wasted an opportunity at the 19th minute when he got way under the ball inside the six and sent it well into the stands.
Javier Morales had Real Salt Lake’s first opportunity of the game at the 21st minute from 30 yards, and it took a spectacular save by Jaime Penedo to put the Stubhub Center at ease.
Salt Lake’s offense continued to present an element of danger for Penedo, but the Galaxy ‘keeper was always in the right position to make the save.
Samuel showcased his Brazilian flare for the first time this season in the 33rd minute when he attempted a cheeky play to get past two defenders. His attempt to surprise them by flicking the ball over the defenders’ heads nearly worked, but it ultimately fell short.
He maintained possession, however, and earned a free kick when he was brought down outside the box, and his daring play elicited an ovation from the sellout crowd.
Just one minute later, Keane found himself in front of Rimando from the left side of the box. His blast from 16 yards out looked poised to go upper 90, but instead shook the right post and took a Salt Lake bounce away from the net.
Newcomer James Riley was booked just before halftime for blatantly pulling down Ned Grabavoy near midfield. Grabavoy would’ve been on his way to the net had Riley not committed the “professional’s foul.”
Sarvas ensured the Galaxy maintained momentum in the second half just minutes after the break when he took a shot from 35 yards out that sailed inches away from the right post.
The game became a little stagnant in the first 15 minutes of the second half.
Stefan Ishizaki made his debut when he came on as a substitute at the 69th minute and immediately made his presence felt when he collided with Rimando while chasing a ball after only a few seconds on the pitch. Rimando required medical attention, but was deemed okay to continue.
Ishizaki again made noise at the 74th minute when his left-footed shot from 25 yards was cradled by Rimando, after Ishizaki received a perfect through pass from Keane.
Salt Lake seemed to have taken the lead at the 76th minute when Luke Mulholland tapped the ball in from two yards after a clumsy sequence inside the Galaxy’s 18, but the linesman raised his flag to keep the game scoreless.
But Joao Plata put Salt Lake ahead four minutes later after he found himself directly in front of Penedo, unmarked, and slotted the ball away near the left post.
Omar Gonzalez explained the play after the game by saying, “I think it was a mispass from Kyle [Beckerman]. I think he was trying to put it into [Alvaro] Saborio’s feet, the ball kind of moved funny and it kind of knuckled away and I just couldn’t get my foot on it and then [Joao] Plata was at the right place at the right time, or maybe it was a good run…”
Rob Friend made his debut at the 77th minute as a substitute for Samuel, who looked like he’d had enough for the night.
The Galaxy resorted to repetitive aerial attacks for the remainder of the game that posed little to no threat to Salt Lake.
Baggio Husidic made his Galaxy debut at the 88th minute by replacing Juninho.
The Galaxy had their clearest and most fortuitous opportunity of the night after replacement referee Javier Santos called a highly-questionable penalty against Salt Lake after Friend went to the floor as he tried to bring down a ball inside the box.
But in keeping with the theme of the night, Keane missed from the spot after he tried to get the Rimando to telegraph his move. Rimando, an experienced veteran, didn’t flinch and double-palmed the ball away from the net, near his right post.
After the game, Keane had no problem shouldering much of the blame. “I think I missed opportunities in the first half and it certainly cost us the game, no question about that,” said the Irish international, after playing the full 90 minutes for the first time since injuring his Achilles in November.
“I think that with the chances that we had, we could have killed the game. We didn’t and let them get back into the game. It was a lot of positives in this game, certainly a lot of positives but if you don’t take chances you don’t win games.”
Head coach Bruce Arena also mentioned the missed opportunities as the top factor in the game, but he also mentioned some positives the team can take from this game, going forward. “For the most part we defended pretty well. At times our passing was quick and sharp and other times it was not,” Arena said.
“Good ball movement. For the most part the play was pretty solid. You could see that a couple of our players hit the wall at the end of the game when we needed a little more energy.”
The Galaxy must regroup quickly and find the offensive touch the y lacked today. The host Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles Wednesday night at the Stubhub Center in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.
Xolos beat Chivas De Guadalajara 2-0 at home Friday night in Liga MX action.