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Galaxy’s defense twice squanders the lead in tie with Rapids

About an hour before the StubHub Center gates opened to the public Tuesday, the stadium’s two huge video boards flashed with a message congratulating Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic for scoring his 500th career goal.

It was just a test — and for the second game in a row, it was an announcement none of the paying customers saw, with Ibrahimovic going scoreless as the Galaxy went winless in a 2-2 draw with the Colorado Rapids.

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That extended the Galaxy’s winless streak to three games and again it was defensive errors that let the team down, with Colorado (6-12-6) rallying from one-goal deficits twice in the second half.

“We can talk tactics and we can continue to work on that. But that’s not tactics, that’s effort,” a disappointed Sigi Schmid, the Galaxy coach, said of his team’s defensive breakdowns. “We need more from them. These guys have to step up and we’ve got to figure it out.

“We had the lead twice,” he added. “We have to hold on to the lead.”

The Galaxy got their scores from Ashley Cole and Sebastian Lletget but neither one stood up for long. Colorado’s Edgar Castillo needed just 15 minutes to match Cole’s score — the Galaxy captain’s first in 13 months — glancing a hard left-footed shot off the underside of the crossbar in the 74th minute. And then five minutes after Lletget restored the lead with his second goal in four days, substitute Niki Jackson erased the advantage again, slicing between two defenders and redirecting a shot off defender Daniel Steres and over Galaxy keeper David Bingham for the 82nd-minute equalizer.

It was the third time in three games and 10 days that the Galaxy (10-8-7) let a second-half lead get away in a game it failed to win, losing the first and drawing the next two. All three games were against teams in the bottom half of the Western Conference standings, costing the Galaxy valuable points in a playoff race where they stand third with nine games to play.

“Our final commitment, I don’t know that it’s there,” Schmid said. “It’s just that final thing for us hasn’t clicked.

“We’re not going to get to the playoffs by going one point at a time.”

The Galaxy thought they had won the game when Ola Kamara scored deep in stoppage time, but after a long pause — and some loud Colorado protests — assistant referee Hilario Grajeda raised his flag, ruling Kamara was offside. Replays showed the call was correct.

The Galaxy got mixed news on the injury front with the team announcing the problems that forced Romain Alessandrini and Gio dos Santos out of last Saturday’s game were not considered serious.

An MRI showed Alessandrini’s surgically repaired right knee sustained no structural damage when he was hurt midway through the first half. Alessandrini, who left the field in tears, was diagnosed with a bruise and is expected back before the end of the month. Dos Santos, who was subbed off at halftime, has a Grade 2 quadriceps strain and could be out three more weeks.

But the Galaxy couldn’t get through the first half against Colorado without losing two more players, with Jonathan dos Santos limping off with a groin strain in the 31st minute and center back Michael Ciani leaving during the intermission with tightness in his left hamstring.

Ibrahimovic, meanwhile, was rarely dangerous, going scoreless in consecutive starts for the first time in three months, ending a streak that had seen him register a goal or assist in eight straight games. That left him stuck on 498 goals for club and country, two short of joining an exclusive club that only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, among active players, have entered.

“Two games, only getting one clear chance,” he said. “The only thing I had was a free kick. Actually, four free kicks. And two of them hit a bird outside the stadium.”

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