Los Angeles – The Los Angeles Galaxy won their first road game of the MLS season with a thrilling 3-2 comeback win over Real Salt Lake on May 31, 2023, that fans will hope signals the beginning of a new era for the club after Chris Klein’s firing. As far as new beginnings go, it was a Galaxy that many fans hadn’t seen in a long time; a team willing to show character to get three points after falling behind. It prompted Head Coach Greg Vanney to call the Galaxy “special” for the way they were able to rescue the game thanks to two quick second-half goals.
After a run of bad form that included a 1-0 home loss to Charlotte FC, the win means the Galaxy is no longer in last place. It also means they have a win under their belt before they return to Salt Lake City for next week’s U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 matchup with RSL.
LA Galaxy Post Match
+ 3 on the road 😤 pic.twitter.com/wDkG7FxdpT
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) June 1, 2023
Efrain Alvarez Agony, but Gastón Brugman Bags Opener
Thanks to Javier “Chicharito” Hernández’s suspension and a period with a game every 3 days, Vanney started with a new front three of Dejan Joveljic, Gino Vivi, and Efrain Alvarez. Alvarez, starting his first match after not featuring for the last three, began poorly. Within seconds of the game’s start, he’d already misplayed a pass for a turnover. Thirty minutes in, it was clear it’d be a pattern that would continue. It would force Vanney’s hand at halftime and had many asking, “What happened to Efrain?”
Fortunately, the Galaxy had players step up. Goalkeeper Jonathan Bond made several epic saves to rescue LA, and Jalen Neal helped his backline teammate by coming to the rescue with numerous goal-saving clearances to keep the scores level. It let the Galaxy stay in the game enough to grow in belief. It also put them in a position to strike first.
After a Galaxy corner was handled by RSL in the box late in the half, Referee Ismir Pekmic had no choice but to call a penalty in LA’s favor. Gaston Brugman stepped up and fired a powerful shot past RSL goalkeeper Gavin Beavers for the 1-0 lead in first-half stoppage time.
The Galaxy had just survived the half, however, and Vanney would make changes to start the second.
— Galaxy Fan Talk (@LAGalaxyFanTalk) June 1, 2023
Greg Vanney Changes Pay Off
Vanney has been criticized at times this season for his subs or lack thereof in critical moments of matches. Against RSL, though, Vanney’s subs made him look like a genius. Tyler Boyd’s introduction for Alvarez at halftime finally sparked some sort of attack and made the Galaxy instantly more dangerous.
And a broken hand almost kept Boyd out. Knowing the team needed him, Boyd fought through the pain.
“He came into my office, which was after training, and said, “I’m ready to play.” And so, how do you keep that guy out?” Vanney said of Boyd’s injury.
Although the Galaxy would fall behind 2-1 to a Danny Musovski goal and a wonderful free kick from Pablo Ruiz, Boyd’s gritty example would prove infectious. For the first time this season, players could be seen talking to each other. It led to a special moment from substitute Memo Rodriguez, who stepped away from a tackle before curling a shot into the top corner for the tying goal at 2-2 in the 72-minute.
Two minutes later, Vanney’s decision to play Boyd would pay off.
Memo Rodríguez struck that so clean 😳
— B/R Football (@brfootball) June 1, 2023
Could the Galaxy Be Back?
No one would have blamed LA for playing for a road tie. Instead, the tying goal spurred them forward.
“I saw a different version of us tonight that I thought was special and can do some things,” Vanney confessed post-match.
It was a version of LA that fans had been pleading for. A team capable of showing character after falling behind on the road. And Boyd, the catalyst, was also the culmination.
After Lucas Calegari did well to get away from trouble, his low cross found its way to Boyd at the back post. Boyd only had to tap home from close range to give the Galaxy the 3-2 where the game would end. After the win, Boyd spoke of the team’s camaraderie and his decision to play injured.
“Definitely, we all love each other. We are all brothers out there. I wouldn’t be playing with a broken arm or a broken hand, if I didn’t love my brothers in this club. So finally we strung together a few goals, and we got a good result, a great result, and it just shows you, we are not giving up.”
More than any other player aside from Neal, Boyd has shown to be instrumental to this team.
“I feel like he’s just a guy for us that gives us something a little different on the dynamic side…. and Tyler is a guy who we desperately need.” The victory over RSL proves it.
What a response from the #LAGalaxy
Two minutes later, Tyler Boyd puts them on top. pic.twitter.com/OBd0ArZSIR
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) June 1, 2023
Defending the Badge – Jalen Neal
Enough cannot be said about Jalen Neal. He was immense against RSL, appearing at the last moment time and again to snuff out opposition attacks. And it was Neal’s stellar play (combined with some great Bond saves) that kept the Galaxy in this game early and allowed them to go find victory.
Neal recorded four clearances, two interceptions, three duels won, and three possessions won vs. RSL. He has the highest pass completion rate in MLS with almost a 95 percent pass rating. Not just for his age, but for the entire league. At just 19 years old, he is the living embodiment of everything that makes the Galaxy “special.” His ability to read plays and anticipate danger are all hallmarks of a veteran defender, and it is just a matter of time before a big European team comes calling. Until then, Galaxy fans should enjoy watching a player whose upside has no ceiling.
Además está en los percentiles de pase más altos según @fbref entre defensores de la liga.
— Facu Fernández (MLSero) (@Facu_of) May 26, 2023