Goalkeeper David Bingham was the last Galaxy player off the field after the team’s last full training session this week. But he wasn’t the last player to reach the locker room. Zlatan Ibrahimovic remained behind, entertaining a gaggle of reporters.
“That is perfectly fine with me,” Bingham said. “Everyone’s talking about Zlatan and all the goals he’s scoring. He’ll keep doing that. And we’ll keep doing our thing in the back.”
That’s exactly how things worked out Friday with Ibrahimovic scoring a goal and Bingham coming up with a huge save in a 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo before an announced crowd of 21,503 at Dignity Health Sports Park.
The deciding score came from Diego Polenta, who leaped over former Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza to head in his first MLS goal in the 88th minute.
“It was important. Not as much for me as for the group,” Polenta, who couldn’t remember his last goal, said in Spanish. “It’s a group that’s united. It’s a good group.
It’s also a group that’s on a roll, having won five in a row, the team’s longest winning streak since 2014.
The Galaxy have also won five consecutive games at home for the first time since 2015 to improve to 6-1-0 overall, the team’s best start since 2010.
The loss was the first of the year for Houston (4-1-1), and was a measure of revenge for the Dynamo’s win in Carson last October that eliminated the Galaxy from playoff contention.
For Ibrahimovic, meanwhile, his first-half goal gave him seven on the season and 13 in his last 11 games dating to last season. He has scored in all five games he’s played in this year and in 10 of his last 11 dating to last September.
But Bingham and his defenders have also been important to the team’s early success, a marked change from last season when they allowed 64 goals. Under new coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto, the back line has been more disciplined and better organized while the addition of Polenta at center back has provided some bite.
Ibrahimovic got the scoring started in the 31st minute after drawing a foul from DeLaGarza. Beaten on the play, DeLaGarza wrapped both arms around Ibrahimovic and brought him to the turf to prevent him from reaching a long cross from Uriel Antuna at the far post.
Houston keeper Joe Willis guessed correctly on the resulting penalty shot, diving to his left, but Ibrahimovic’s shot got through him for the goal, his fourth on a penalty kick this season.
The Dynamo tied the game on a penalty kick of their own early in the second half with Alberth Ellis converting after being tripped up by Jorgen Skjelvik on the edge of the 18-yard box. That ended Bingham’s scoreless streak at 279 minutes, his longest since 2015 when he was with the San Jose Earthquakes.
But Bingham came up huge late in the game, going to his knees to kick out a try from Mauro Manotas. That was the second of two saves he had to make and it set up the game-winner four minutes later, with Polenta breaking out of the grasp of DeLaGarza to get his head on a Jonathan Dos Santos corner kick on the edge of the six-yard box.
“Game by game he’s getting better,” Schelotto said of Polenta, who hadn’t played a game since last spring before making his Galaxy debut last month. “He’s a winner.”
The win may prove to be a costly one for the Galaxy, however, after midfielder Romain Alessandrini limped to the locker room with a left knee injury in the 16th minute.
Alessandrini strained a hamstring early in the season opener and missed two games.