The Los Angeles Galaxy head into the international break with two vital victories in a week after a 4-1 come-from-behind home thrashing of Austin FC. Two goals and two assists by the Serbian super-sub Dejan Joveljić inspired the Galaxy home win and allowed them to keep pace with the rest of the Western Conference.
Four second-half goals awe Austin in Galaxy home win
But it could’ve been a different week altogether if Los Angeles hadn’t taken care of their upstart neighbors from down the freeway in the U.S. Open Cup 3-1 on Wednesday.
It led to a Galaxy home win that is a complete turnaround from the previous two losses, and a game that shows real character and growth from the team. An impassioned Javier “Chicharito” Hernández implored his teammates to wake up and start to put in these types of performances after the ugly Houston loss, and they seemed to get the message. He mentioned there were various voices in the locker room that spoke up and all were receptive.
“I think apart from speaking, I think we listened. We listened. It’s something that we all did after the Houston game. We felt embarrassed after that game, we felt that we let down ourselves, our teammates, our coaching staff, our fans, and our people,” Chicharito shared.
“So I think that feeling, to say that you touched rock bottom, that’s what champions do sometimes. You don’t need to go to those extremes, but that happened to us. And I said after that game that if we didn’t improve, and we didn’t bounce back, we could enter into a very dark place. And thankfully we just bounced back, the good thing about this is a part of the results, apart from the outcome. It’s like you set the bar.”
A new team in L.A.?
Thanks to the team’s ability to absorb that message and the success midweek, an emotional boost was provided and L.A. entered the game with better intensity than in their previous two home defeats.
No sooner had the game started than Kevin Cabral continued his mini-renaissance by earning a penalty in the first minute of play.
Galaxy Captain Chicharito would step up to take a tame shot that Austin Goalkeeper Brad Stuver saved easily. The Galaxy would continue to threaten Stuver’s goal, however, and 30 minutes later, Chicharito almost made amends for his penalty miss by scoring what he thought was the game’s first goal on 36 minutes. No sooner had the confetti settled than VAR had canceled out a well-worked sequence because of an alleged handball by the goal scorer.
Like in numerous performances preceding it this year, the great chances created didn’t result in a first-half goal. In fact, L.A. would come out a bit flat to start the second half and coughed up a goal to Diego Fagundez on 52 minutes.
It seemed like for all the chances and positive play, it wouldn’t be the Galaxy’s day yet again.
Joveljić the super-sub
But if a week can change much, so can a well-timed substitution.
Enter Joveljić. The Serbian has been making his case to be in the starting 11 all season, and this performance will be the loudest call yet.
His introduction in the 61st minute spurred two Galaxy goals in four minutes. Joveljić turned on the tekkers for a stylish back-heel flick that an open Chicharito could not miss.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 29, 2022
Mexico’s all-time leading goal scorer rifled a well-placed shot into the bottom left corner of Stuver’s net to bring the Galaxy level 1-1 for his sixth goal of the year.
Before the trees knew what hit them, Joveljić was at it again.
A lucky bounce off his face from a scrambling Austin clearance was his easiest play of the day. Like Chicharito before him, Joveljić could not miss and rifled his shot into the ceiling of the net to give the Galaxy the lead 2-1.
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) May 30, 2022
His next goal was art itself, and took what fight Austin had left swiftly away. With goals like this, it’ll be hard for Vanney to keep leaving him out.
A beautifully weighted Efrain Alvarez through ball slipped the striker in, and he scoop chipped the ball over an onrushing Stuver to put the game beyond Austin’s reach 3-1.
Dejan Joveljic took over this game!
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 29, 2022
He wasn’t done yet, though.
Joveljić returned the favor to Alvarez with an acrobatic bicycle kick assist that Alvarez had only to collect and shoot past Stuver to make the route complete. It wasn’t a bad day for Alvarez, either, who finished with a goal and an assist himself.
The man of the match, though, has to be Joveljić. With two goals and two assists in the win, he is the first player in MLS history to contribute to four goals as a substitute in a single match. Joveljić has also tallied six goals and two assists in 15 appearances across all competitions this year in just three starts. His chip and bicycle kick assist were the cream of an impressive afternoon.
Dejan's bicycle kick assist 🤯 pic.twitter.com/Et4GHDgtwQ
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) May 29, 2022
Vanney the victorious
A clearly pleased Greg Vanney spoke of the substitutes’ contribution and whether Joveljić will get a start soon.
“Yeah, every time Dejan [Joveljić] comes in off the bench, he’s scored a goal, he’s had a goal called back, he’s had assists, he’s made a difference, he’s brought energy, he’s brought confidence, he’s brought quality in the final actions,” Vanney expressed. “So, his opportunities are coming, and in starts, and hopefully he’ll continue to do the same thing and do it for large stretches of time.”
The super-sub can take the inspired performance into the break, where the team can recharge. Coming out of it, he’ll make a push for a starting spot again.
Joveljić spoke after the game about the team coming together for the win and, in typical fashion, was smiling.
“I want to use every chance. [Today] I got like 25 to 30 minutes, I managed to score two goals and two assists. I’m very happy and very proud of my team. We showed great effort, great mentality, and I’m sure that we deserved to win,” the man of the match shared.
After the break
We’ll see what a difference two weeks make when the fifth-placed Galaxy takes on Portland on June 18th after the break.
Photo with LA Galaxy permission.