The Galaxy played its seventh game of the season Saturday, which shouldn’t have been a surprise since that’s the way the Major League Soccer scheduled it a few months ago.
What was a surprise, though, was the fact the team was using its seventh different lineup in as many games. Yet the Galaxy still found a way to make it all work, with Omar Gonzalez coming off the bench late in the second half to deflect home a stoppage-time goal that beat Sporting Kansas City, 2-1.
“Closed my eyes, stuck my leg out and it ended up going in,” Gonzalez said.
The play started with Juninho, knowing the final whistle was only seconds away, racing across the field to take a corner kick. The Galaxy captain bent the ball away from the goal toward Gonzalez, who managed to redirect it toward the net.
Kansas City keeper Luis Marin appeared to have a bead on the ball but it struck midfielder Bernardo Anor and deflected into the side netting
Fifteen minutes earlier Gonzalez was on the sidelines, having been held out after playing 90 minutes on a poor field for the U.S. national last week. But with the score tied, Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena sent Gonzalez on for Tommy Meyer in the 78th minute and was rewarded with a win.
“It feels good coming in for 15 minutes and scoring a goal,” Gonzalez said. “Can’t ask for more than that, I guess, from a sub. I’m just extremely happy because these guys worked their butts off tonight.”
Gonzalez wasn’t the only one who watched most of Saturday’s game. Captain and reigning league MVP Robbie Keane didn’t dress for the second time in six days because a groin strain. Center back Leonardo missed his third straight game because of a quadriceps problem, while forward Edson Buddle, who has played only 48 minutes this year, was out as well.
And forward Gyasi Zardes, who also played a full game for the national team last Wednesday, was on the bench next to 20-year-old defender Oscar Sorto, who was needed on the sidelines primarily to give the Galaxy a full 18-man roster.
In Zardes’ place the Galaxy used the speedy Bradford Jamieson, who was impressive in his first MLS start, nearly setting up a goal in the second minute and nearly scoring one early in the second half.
Before Saturday, Jamieson’s entire MLS career consisted of 23 minutes. He more than tripled that against Kansas City.
“I knew a few days before that I was going to be starting,” he said. “This is my goal to be starting day in and day out.
“The performance ... was good. But I’ve been working for it. We’ve got a long season ahead and I have a lot more games.”
The Galaxy opened the scoring in the ninth minute with Baggio Husidic, perched near the left post, banging home the rebound of a Stefan Ishizaki shot.
Kristzian Nemeth evened things midway through the first half when he beat Galaxy keeper Jaime Penedo with Kansas City’s first shot of the night, although it wasn’t completely Penedo’s fault since Nemeth came in on goal alone after getting by defender A.J. DeLaGarza deep in the penalty area.
The score stayed that way until Gonzalez’s ricochet goal, which extended the Galaxy’s unbeaten streak at the StubHub Center to 25 games against MLS competition while giving the team a modest two-game winning streak for the first time this season.
It also gave the Galaxy an important three points in the standings, lifting them to second place in the Western Conference.
A week ago they were last.
“When you play hard and hang in there, once in a while you get a little bit lucky and the ball bounces your way,” Arena said. “We’ve been on the short end of those a few times. I think things balance out.
“We played well considering a little bit of a makeshift lineup. I’m real pleased with our players. We’ve played two games in a row without Robbie Keane, and tonight not starting with Omar and Gyasi and getting a result is very impressive.”