Frustrated might be the best word to describe Galaxy players after Saturday’s 2-0 loss to New York City FC in front of a crowd of 22,806 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson.
The Galaxy surrendered two goals in the final moments of the first half and, despite constant pressure over the last 45 minutes, were unable to avoid their first home defeat of the season. Los Angeles was seeking to equal the best home start in franchise history— 7-0-0 at the Rose Bowl — in its inaugural campaign in 1996.
Swedish star forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who had nine goals and two assists in his first eight games, was kept off the scoresheet for the second straight game and only the third time this season. He led the Galaxy with eight shots Sunday, giving him 50 this season, but only one was on target. His best chance came on a shot that caromed off the crossbar one minute before full time.
A sign that this might not be the Galaxy’s day came midway through the first half when Ibrahimovic deftly redirected a centering pass into the net, but the referee immediately signaled the play offside. The visitors controlled the action in the first half and struck first when Heber kicked a rebound past Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham in the 44th minute.
“We had two games away during the week and you could say we were exhausted from the travel, that yes maybe we got tired, but our attitude was different the second 45 minutes from the first,” Galaxy head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto said. “I prefer to play with four in the back, not five, but more important than the formation is the way you play and we didn’t play well enough to win today.”
The Galaxy (7-4-1, 22 points) entered the contest second in the Western Conference behind crosstown rival Los Angeles FC and were looking to rebound from road losses to the New York Red Bulls and Columbus. The Galaxy are back in action next Sunday when they host Colorado.
Ibrahimovic, who finished last season with a team-high 22 goals and 10 assists, entered the game scoring at a rate of 1.00 goal per 90 minutes and second in the league in goals. Last year, the Galaxy went 9-2-4 when he scored and 4-10-5 when he did not.
The Galaxy earned seven corners to New York’s four and outshot their opponents 14-12, but they could not put the ball behind goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who got help in the final minute when Heber, standing on the goal line, headed away a shot by Ibrahimovic.
Teenager Julian Araujo started at right back in place of Rolf Feltscher and rounding out the starting lineup were Ibrahimovic, Diego Polenta, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Daniel Steres, Servando Carrasco, Diedie Traore, Joe Corona, Uriel Antuna and Sebastian Lletget. Traore started at left back in favor of Jorgen Skjelevik as the defense gave up six goals on the two-game trip.
“We managed the ball a lot better in the second half today and I thought in the 55th minute there was a very clear penalty [in the box] that wasn’t called,” Schelotto said. “Sometimes calls go your way, other times they don’t. We have a week off before our next game so it gives us time to get ready.”
NYCFC, which began the day sixth in the Eastern Conference, improved to 4-0-3 in its last seven games and earned its first road victory over the Galaxy.