CARSON, CA – All week, the Los Angeles Galaxy knew a simple fact. Win against Minnesota United on decision day, and it would book a ticket to the playoffs. It wouldn’t matter what happened in games across the tightly packed Western Conference. This was where five teams were competing for three playoff spots. The Galaxy were masters of their own fate.
And so, in what has become something of a decision day tradition in Los Angeles, the Galaxy didn’t secure the win against Minnesota and missed out on the playoffs on the last day of the season once again. (If you’re keeping track at home, that’s no playoffs in four out of five seasons).
Decision Day disaster for Galaxy is now a tradition
A tradition dating back to 2012 and including some gut-wrenching decision day moments like the 3-2 loss at Houston. This was despite being up 2-0, the Galaxy added one more decision day heartbreak to the list.
A decision day devastation that ends Los Angeles’ season despite showing heart to come from two goals down to rescue a 3-3 tie at home.
“There’s going to be time to see in which part we didn’t do well enough. It’s obvious that we didn’t deserve to be in the playoffs, that’s why it didn’t happen,” Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez said of failing to make the postseason.
Los Angeles Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney agreed but also thought of the missed moments throughout the season.
“You can go through the course of the season and think of the plays. That could have been the difference in the end, after 34 games and all the plays that you have over the course of 90 minutes for 34 games plus stoppage time and everything else you can think of all the moments where it could have been should have been. But at the end of it all, we didn’t. We didn’t do enough.”
Down 2-0 early
The Galaxy didn’t do themselves any favors early.
Lod save the Queen.
We're up 2-0 in LA. pic.twitter.com/JiBXVxhXvA
— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) November 8, 2021
They found themselves behind to an Adrien Hunou goal after just 21 minutes; the defense being caught out of position after a lethal counterattack by Minnesota off a Galaxy corner kick. Robin Lod added a second for the Loons just 12 minutes later when Los Angeles failed to deal with a Minnesota corner and Lod popped up to stab the ball into the roof of the net.
The way the Galaxy defense was being exposed spurred Vanney into his first substitution on the 38-minute mark as he brought on Niko Hamalainen for Oniel Fisher at left-back. Forced to come from behind again, where Galaxy has a 1-10-5 record and hasn’t won since the opening day of the season, they finally came alive in first-half stoppage time.
After some good work on the left flank by Kevin Cabral, Sebastian Lletget got on the end of a teasing Cabral cross at the back post to poke home his third goal of the season and bring Los Angeles back into the game 2-1 in first-half stoppage time. L.A.’s goal unsettled Minnesota, who had difficulty adjusting to the sudden press and were lucky to escape the first 45 still ahead.
The Galaxy came out for the second half with the same intensity they ended the first with and were rewarded with Chicharito tying the score 2-2 on the 50-minute mark. For the next 10 minutes, it was all L.A. on offense. Minnesota repelled wave after wave of Galaxy attack and incredibly went up 3-2 against the run of play on the 61-minute mark. In a sequence that is pretty indicative of L.A.’s season, an own-goal by Julian Araujo after the defense failed to deal with a counter-attack, found the Galaxy behind again.
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) November 8, 2021
The Loon lead was short-lived, as Araujo instantly made up for the own-goal by assisting Chicharito with a low cross to the middle of the box for the Galaxy player-of-the-year to score his second of the game and 17th of the season on the 75-minute mark.
Now 3-3, the final 15 minutes of the game were frenetic. Minnesota had a chance to win it in the 89-minute mark from the penalty spot only for Franco Fragapane to hit the woodwork and for Galaxy fans to breathe a sigh of relief. The Galaxy had several good chances as well, namely Cabral’s shot saved by Tyler Miller from about six yards out in second-half stoppage time.
Kansas City shuffle?
By this point, favorable news coming in around the league would see the Galaxy get into the playoffs if results were held. And as the clock wound down in Los Angeles on a gutsy come-from-behind draw, the Galaxy was starting to believe they had done just enough to sneak into the postseason with the 3-3 draw.
But, they hadn’t and really hadn’t all season. A blown penalty call in Kansas City and a late Real Salt Lake goal would conspire to earn RSL all three points and the seventh and final spot in the playoffs. In another decision day disappointment, the Galaxy would miss out again at the last when they had everything in their favor. But as Last Word Colleague and fellow Galaxy beat writer, Matt Pollard said in a tweet earlier this week, “It should not have come to this.”
I've got a 1-1 draw but RSL and LAFC not winning, so they're the 7th seed on my imaginary betting slip.
Center backs need to do a number on Reynoso. If Chicha's not getting the chances, those who do need to finish (looking at you Cabral).
It should not have come to this.
— Matt Pollard (@LWOSMattPollard) November 5, 2021
The Galaxy won eight of their first 12 games, and then just five of their next 22. A two-month, nine-game winless run in the business end of the season is the culprit for the Galaxy’s postseason failure, despite what happened on decision day. From challenging for a first-place early in the season to being on the precipice of the postseason on the last day to being knocked out at possibly the last moment, the decision day tradition and rebuild continues for the Galaxy.
“We dreamed. We set a goal, we couldn’t achieve it. It is a very important lesson, a very painful one. And yeah, we need to move forward,” Chicharito confessed of the tie and season.
The challenge will now be for Vanney to continue remaking this roster over the next two months. With high-profile players like DP Jona Dos Santos out of contract, it’ll be interesting to see what the club will look like next season. If all goes well, the Galaxy won’t even have to worry about the decision day tradition next year.
Three Key Takeaways:
Was it the last time Dos Santos played in a Galaxy Jersey: With Galaxy Captain Jon Dos Santos out of contract but has professed a desire to retire in Los Angeles, what the Galaxy does with Dos Santos will be a cause for concern for the fanbase? The Galaxy midfield sure needs a retool and Dos Santos is on DP money.
Has Araujo gone too?: The right-back has impressed for most of the season and has been rumored to be on the radar of some big European clubs. Will he be in Los Angeles next season?
The defense: Most Galaxy fans will tell you; this is L.A.’s Achilles heel. Vanney will be judged in large part with his approach to fixing the backline.
Photo credit to LA Galaxy on November 7, 2021.