Commentary: Galaxy finally winning, but boycotts and fallout from cheating scandal remain issues

Galaxy coach Greg Vanney stands during the national anthem before a match against the Seattle Sounders.
Galaxy coach Greg Vanney stands during the national anthem before a match against the Seattle Sounders on April 1. The Galaxy have won two consecutive games, but the team is still dealing with issues on and off the field.
(Michael Janosz / ISI Photos / Getty Images)

Have the Galaxy turned things around or have they simply made a U-turn into oncoming traffic?

Do two wins in five days — more victories than the Galaxy have had in the previous six months — constitute a course correction or simply a brief detour in the team’s journey to the bottom of the MLS standings?

It could be weeks before we have the answers to those questions. In the meantime, the Galaxy will celebrate Sunday’s 2-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes at a mostly empty Dignity Health Sports Park as a harbinger of hope, one that, astonishingly, moves the team to within three points of a Western Conference playoff berth.


The Galaxy dominated in every facet of the game, building on last week’s U.S. Open Cup win over Seattle, a game in which Galaxy coach Greg Vanney started a first-choice lineup against a team of Sounders reserves and was rewarded with a berth in the tournament’s round of 16.

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Not exactly the kind of modest results the Galaxy, five-time league champions, are used to celebrating. But in a season that started with seven winless games, any victory is a good one — especially if it proves to be the end of that poor beginning.

A black cloud has hovered over the team all season. Attendance is down, three of the club’s four main supporters’ groups are boycotting home games and a cheating scandal that cost the team $2 million in fines will seriously hamper its ability to add reinforcements in the summer transfer window. You’d think all that would be a wake-up call for the most successful franchise in MLS history. Management, however, has reacted by hitting the snooze button. If there’s a sense of urgency around the team it has been well hidden under a cloak of complacency.

Sunday’s win won’t solve the problems that led to the worst start in franchise history — but it won’t hurt either.

“These are positive, positive things,” Vanney said of the team’s first two-game winning streak since mid-October. “Getting results from a mentality standpoint gives you the sense, especially based on the performances, that you’re on the right track. The guys gain confidence from those types of performances.”

Galaxy forward Dejan Joveljic scores past San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski.
Galaxy forward Dejan Joveljic, center, scores past San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski during the second half Sunday at Dignity Health Sports Park.
(LA Galaxy)

The Galaxy (2-6-3) are too good to be this bad. Yes, injuries and suspensions have hurt — only two players, midfielders Mark Delgado and Gastón Brugman, have started all 11 MLS games and the team’s three high-paid designated players, Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, Riqui Puig and Douglas Costa, have been on the field together for just 21 minutes this season.

President Chris Klein, whose re-signing to a multiyear contract last year inspired the fans’ boycott, appears willing to ride out the storm, promising to step aside after the season — and only if the Galaxy don’t advance in the playoffs. Vanney, whose seat has gotten warm in recent weeks, also appears safe for the time being since Klein is the guy who would have to fire the coach and appoint a successor, something he’s already done four times in the last six seasons without lasting success.

Giving Klein charge of another coaching change would only deepen the supporters’ animosity — and given Klein’s track record, it wouldn’t work anyway.

Dan Beckerman, president of AEG, the Galaxy’s parent company, could also do that. But Beckerman has preferred to fiddle while his soccer team burns, pledging to leave personnel decisions up to the people under him. The buck, therefore, will stop somewhere else.

Speaking of bucks, the team’s payroll of more than $23 million is among the highest in the league yet the Galaxy have just two regular-season wins to show for that, the second coming Sunday on Martín Cáceres’ first MLS goal and Dejan Joveljic’s team-high second score of the season.

Galaxy forward Dejan Joveljic, left, celebrates after scoring against San Jose on Sunday night.
(LA Galaxy)

Although the Galaxy had the best of a scoreless first half, they couldn’t take advantage, with Hernández getting a game-high three shots in the first 25 minutes but failing to put any of them on target. That marked the eighth time in 11 regular-season games that the Galaxy have gone into the intermission without a goal.

Cáceres finally got them on the board in the 60th minute, heading a Memo Rodríguez corner off the outstretched left hand of San Jose goalkeeper JT Marcin-
kowski and just inside the far post. It was just the second time the Galaxy had led since the first half of their season opener.

Joveljic added what appeared to be an insurance goal in the first minute of stoppage time, scoring seconds after coming off the bench.

That proved to be the winner minutes later when Ousseni Bouda scored for San Jose (5-4-3) on the final touch of the game.

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“We won. Finally,” a smiling Joveljic said afterward. “After each win you’re more ready, more happy.”

Maybe. But there’s a lot of work still to be done.

Although the performance was among the team’s best of the season — the Galaxy gave up a season-low eight shots and dominated the possession battle — the team remains tied for last in the league in wins and points.


“There’s a lot for us to build off of,” Vanney said.

“The Open Cup game was important for us. We needed that game to find a rhythm.”

And for the moment, at least, it appears he has the team headed in the right direction.