The Galaxy’s May slump turned into a full-fledged free fall Sunday when they lost to a team that hadn’t won this season and failed to score against a goalkeeper that had given up goals in bunches.
The scoreboard showed the Colorado Rapids winning 1-0.
But the result was far more embarrassing for a team that entered the month a point off the league lead. The Galaxy haven’t won since.
“I’m at a loss for words,” Galaxy captain Jonathan dos Santos said. “We were doing so well at the start of the season.”
Added coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto: “Every time you lose you can learn something.”
And things could get worse before they get better. Dos Santos, who missed the last game because of a hamstring issue, limped off late in Sunday’s loss with a sore hip. The Galaxy (7-5-1) were already without leading scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is serving a two-game suspension, and Romain Alessandrini, who is out until September following knee surgery.
They also play the next two games on the road.
“I don’t want to make excuses. But when I ... make the lineup there are problems, always,” Schelotto said. “The only thing I can say is we need to work.”
The difference Sunday was a goal in the 82nd minute by Andre Shinyashiki, who had come off the bench just seven minutes earlier.
Colorado, which fired coach Anthony Hudson and replaced him with assistant Conor Casey less than three weeks ago, came into the game with more coaches than wins this season.
Until Shinyashiki’s goal it hadn’t even led a game in more than a month — so long ago that Benny Feilhaber, the player who scored that goal, is no longer with the team.
However, goalkeeper Tim Howard deserves most of the credit for the Rapids’ first win since October after a sterling six-save performance in his final appearance at Dignity Health Sports Park.
“It’s not easy to come to work when you’re getting beat up every week,” said Howard, who had fewer saves (29) than goals allowed (30) before Sunday’s shutout, his first of the season. And it came in a game that contained flashes of the brilliance that made him a three-time World Cup selection and the winningest goalkeeper in national team history.
“The only thing you get joy out of in football is winning,” said Howard, who will retire at the end of the season. “You need some joy. And we got some today.”
A chilly late afternoon start left more than half the field covered in shadows, though that didn’t seem to bother the Galaxy.
They came out hot with Favio Alvarez, in his first MLS appearance, testing Howard twice in the first nine minutes.
Colorado (1-9-2) remained on its heels most of the day, sending more passes to its opponents than to its own players. As a result the Galaxy dominated in every significant statistical category, controlling the ball for more than 60 of the 90 minutes, completing more than twice as many passes and making 22 open-play crosses in the second half alone.
But by pushing numbers forward and pressing for the win, the Galaxy left themselves open to repeated counterattacks. And when Dos Santos’ sore leg slowed him from tracking back, the Rapids made the Galaxy pay with Shinyashiki leading a three-on-two charge up the middle of the field.
The Brazilian laid the ball off to his right for Kei Kamara, whose shot was stopped by Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham. But the rebound fell at Shinyashiki’s right foot for the easy finish.
“You can have all the ball possession in the world, but at the end if you don’t score goals, nothing happens,” Dos Santos said of a Galaxy team that has been shut out in two consecutive games and has just one goal in its last 317 minutes.
At the final whistle boos rose from the crowd of 19,015, the smallest of the season at home.
“We lost against a team that’s sitting in last. The fans don’t deserve this,” Dos Santos continued. “But Friday we play another game and we hope to go back to [our] winning ways.”