Omar Gonzalez
LA Galaxy defender, Omar Gonzalez, celebrates with his teammates after scoring the game-winning goal in the Galaxy's 2-1 victory over Sporting KC at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA. Twitter / @LAGalaxy

CARSON – Like berry pomegranate Mio is to water, Omar Gonzalez is to the LA Galaxy…it changes everything.

The LA Galaxy star was supposed to get a rare day off on Saturday after playing a full 90 minutes for the national team on Wednesday in USA’s 2-0 victory over Mexico. But with the Galaxy tied 1-1 and struggling in the second half, Gonzalez came on for the final 12 minutes and scored the game-winning goal in stoppage time to lift the Galaxy over Sporting KC 2-1.

“Bruce [Arena] told me from the get go that I was going to be on the bench,” said Gonzalez. “I was telling him I wanted to play and that I wanted to start, but he said ‘We have 28 more games, we have to be smart about it.’ From the moment I woke up today I said I have to be ready to make an impact and it ended up working out so I’m very happy.”

The match was touted as a clash between the previous two MLS Cup champions, but it was evident from the onset that the depleted Galaxy roster was not the same team that hoisted the Cup just a few months ago.

The shorthanded reigning MLS Cup champions found themselves without MLS MVP Robbie Keane, Gysasi Zardes and Gonzalez to start the match. Additionally, LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena was forced to use a makeshift lineup with injuries to midfielders Mika Vayrynen, Jose Villarreal and Kenny Walker as well as defender Leonardo and striker Edson Buddle.

“I think we played well on the night considering our makeshift lineup,” said Arena. “I’m really pleased with our players. We’ve played two games in a row without Robbie Keane and tonight we didn’t start Omar [Gonzalez] and Gyasi [Zardes], so getting a result is very impressive.”

With Keane out of the lineup with a groin injury for the second consecutive game, Arena gave 18-year-old Bradford Jamieson IV his first ever MLS start.

“Last night it was surreal because I thought tomorrow I’m going to be starting against Kansas City and how funny is it that I got my first league assist against Kansas City last year and this year is my first MLS start,” said Jamieson of his emotions before the game. “But, this morning I woke up at eight and watched Netflix all day on the couch, so I tried to downplay it as much as possible.”

Despite the lack of star power, the Galaxy got a first half goal from Baggio Husidic in the 9th minute. Midfielder, Stefan Ishizaki streaked down the right hand side of the pitch and sent a sharp shot at SKC keeper Luis Marin. Marin blocked the ball, but the rebound bounced right to Husidic who tapped it into the open net for his first goal of the season.

Minutes later Krisztian Nemeth got the equalizer. The Hungarian native took advantage of a defensive breakdown by the Galaxy in the center of the box and lifted a beautiful chip shot over the charging Jaimie Penedo for the goal.

“Krisztian [Nemeth] made a really good run and a great finish,” said SKC teammate Benny Feilhaber. “It was a good team goal, something that is nice to see because we have been missing a little bit of that over the first few games of the year.”

The second half was packed with tension as both teams sought the game-winner. Arena brought in Zardes and Gonzalez to give his team a boost with less than twenty minutes left in the match. It took more than 90 minutes, but thanks to Gonzalez the Galaxy were finally able to break through the KC defense and steal the victory.

With the clock ticking down in stoppage time and the referee ready to blow the final whistle, Gonzalez scored off of a dramatic set piece that left everyone at StubHub center screaming in their seats. Juninho’s corner kick appeared to be directed towards Alan Gordon in the box, but the ball sailed over his head and right to Gonzalez who redirected the shot towards the net.

“I closed my eyes, stuck my leg out and it ended up going in,” said Gonzalez of his game-winner. “I just wanted to get it on frame. I really did just stick my leg out. Just trying to get it in there. I scored a goal and it feels good. Can’t ask for more than that.”

Fortunately for the Galaxy, SKC defender Bernardo Anor was standing in the wrong place at the right time as the ball deflected off of his knee and into the bottom right corner of the net.

With the win the Galaxy extended their unbeaten streak at the StubHub Center to 25 games, but even more valuable was the three points they stole thanks to Gonzalez.

Game Notes:
20,018 fans came out to support the LA Galaxy on Saturday night, and over 8,000 more were at the StubHub Center watching boxing next door. With Keane out, Juninho wore the captain’s armband for the third time this season.

© 2024 Latin Times. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.