US women’s soccer team in Australia with 2023 World Cup in mind

A new-look U.S. women’s national team ends a long season with its first appearance in Australia in 21 years. It comes in one of the few away friendlies for the American team in the past 18 months.

Coach Vlatko Andonovski on Thursday said it’s no coincidence that the Americans are playing Australia in two matches in the country which will co-host the 2023 Women’s World Cup, a tournament the U.S has won four times.

The Americans still technically have to qualify for the 2023 event, but that’s a foregone conclusion that should be confirmed early next year.

“We wanted to test the players against one of the best teams in the world,” Andonovski said during a conference call from the team’s training camp in Sydney. “But also test them for the adversity, long travel, jet lag after a long year. I think very quickly into the game we will find out who is cut out for this and who is not.”

An American women’s soccer team last played in Australia at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, taking home a silver medal after losing 3-2 to Norway in the final.

The U.S. plays the Matildas on Saturday at Sydney’s Olympic stadium, where a crowd of between 35,000 and 40,000 is expected, and again next Tuesday at Newcastle, a city about a two-hour drive north of Sydney.

Andonovski will do so with a far different lineup than the one which beat Australia 4-3 in the bronze medal match at the Tokyo Olympics in August. The Americans have lost just two matches this year, but they were important ones — 3-0 to Sweden in the round-robin portion of the Olympic tournament and 1-0 to the eventual gold medal-winning Canada in the semifinals.

For the matches in Australia, there are only 10 players in the 22-player roster from the squad which played at the Tokyo Games. There are 12 members with 10 or fewer international caps, including five uncapped players.

Lindsey Horan, a 27-year-old midfielder, has become one of the veterans of the U.S. squad, playing in 106 matches since 2013 and scoring 24 goals.

“I’d like to be a role model for them,” Horan said during the conference call. “It’s exciting to see, new younger players coming in and to start a new cycle, a new era.”

Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson, a former assistant coach with the USWNT, said the Americans will be the sixth top 10 team his No. 11-ranked Australian squad has faced in 2021.

“With each match, we are continuing to get one day better as a team, and at the same time providing invaluable experience to the younger players,” he said when the matches were announced. “The U.S. Women’s National Team are a team with quality across the park and will mark another great challenge for the playing group.”

Veteran striker Sam Kerr is expected to lead Australia in the matches. The 28-year-old Kerr has 49 goals in 102 matches for Australia. She plays club football for Chelsea in England.

She’s always mentioned among the best players ever to suit up in the women’s game.

“That’s for other people to decide,” Kerr told Australian Associated Press this week. “I do everything I can to be in that conversation and win as many trophies and be talked about by people for years to come.”

Andonovski has no doubt Kerr belongs in that conversation.

“She is one of the best strikers in the world,” Andonovski said. “I wish we can say we will stop a player like Sam Kerr . . . but we want to play against the best, particularly with a young team, so we can gauge where we are.”

For those youngsters, U.S. defender Abby Dahlkemper was asked Thursday if there had been any group bonding sessions for the new players. She gave a typically Australian-centric response.

“We’ve seen koalas, kangaroos and done a (Sydney) harbor cruise,” Dahlkemper said. “It’s important to experience the culture. “

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Galaxy earns tie in Seattle, but playoff race remains cluttered

SEATTLE — For much of the season, the Galaxy looked like a lock to not only make the MLS playoffs but host a postseason game. Even after playing the first-place Seattle Sounders to a 1-1 draw on Monday night, failure to qualify remains a legitimate possibility in the final week of the regular season.

Javier “Chicharito” Hernández scored in the 19th minute off a corner kick for the Galaxy on Monday night, while Seattle’s Raúl Ruidíaz scored on a penalty kick early in the second half, after Cristian Roldan was fouled in the box.

Both teams earned a needed point in the battle for playoff positioning in the Western Conference, putting the Galaxy in position to secure a spot with a win in its home finale on Sunday afternoon.

The Galaxy (13-12-8, 47 points) pulled even on points with Vancouver for one of the final two playoff spots, but the Whitecaps, eighth-place Real Salt Lake (45 points) and ninth-place LAFC (44) all have two matches (and six potential points) remaining, and L.A. has just the one (against fifth-place Minnesota).

“This is going to be a great experience for this group of players together to go home and try and get it done,” Galaxy coach Greg Vanney said.

For the moment, Seattle (17-8-8, 59 points) moved one point ahead of Sporting Kansas City and Colorado for first place in the West. Kansas City has two games remaining, while both Seattle and Colorado have one.

But Seattle is winless in its past five games heading into the regular-season finale.

“I would say it’s very concerning,” Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said.

Chicharito scored for the fourth time in his past six matches to give the Galaxy the early advantage. Nick DePuy flicked on Sebastian Lletget’s in-swinging corner kick service to Chicharito, whose back-heel shot from the center of the 6-yard box beat Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei for his team-leading 15th goal of the season.

Ruidíaz scored his 17th of the year, tying the club record set by Obafemi Martins in 2014. It also pulled Ruidíaz within one of NYCFC’s Valentín Castellanos in the race for the Golden Boot. Ruidíaz is tied with Ola Kamara for second.

Seattle had several chances to find a winning goal, but Roldan hit the post twice and Xavier Arreaga’s header in second-half stoppage time that Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond saved off the crossbar.

“In the balance of the game, I thought they dominated the second half and we had to be resolute and stand strong,” Bond said.

But the night was also about Seattle forward Jordan Morris and his return well ahead of any initial expectations. Not that he forgot the sound, but he took a moment to appreciate noise when he stepped back on the field in a Sounders uniform.

“It’s been almost two years since I played in front of fans, so that was a special moment,” Morris said.

Morris suffered a torn ACL in his left knee last February while on loan with Swansea City in the English League Championship. It was the second major knee injury of Morris’ career and was expected to knock him out for the rest of 2021.

His recovery was well ahead of schedule and he returned to training with Seattle several weeks ago. He was given clearance by the team’s medical staff to be included against the Galaxy.

Morris came on in the 60th minute, replacing Ruidíaz. He was greeted by a huge ovation in his first appearance for the Sounders since the MLS Cup final loss to Columbus last December.

Morris never got a clean look at goal, although it wasn’t for a lack of effort by his teammates.

“Definitely some chills and goosebumps going onto the field, but my thought process was what can I do to help the team win,” Morris said.

But this was the first step for Morris and should give a boost to Seattle entering the playoffs. It’s also the start of his journey getting back on the radar of coach Gregg Berhalter as the U.S. winds its way through World Cup qualifying. Morris won’t be a candidate for the matches later this month against Jamaica and Mexico, but he could be in the mix for a spot in January and beyond.

UP NEXT

For those monitoring the Galaxy’s postseason hopes, there are two important Western Conference games the next two nights. LAFC (44 points) hosts Vancouver (47 points) on Tuesday night, while fourth-place Portland (49 points) plays at Real Salt Lake on Wednesday. Regardless of how those matches shake out, the final Sunday of the regular season is going to be filled with intrigue.

CHICHADIOS 🙌@CH14_ gets his 15th goal of the season in UNREAL fashion to put us up 1-0 in #SEAvLA pic.twitter.com/0jhON2QGLD

— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) November 2, 2021

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LAFC dominates Seattle for pivotal late-season win

LOS ANGELES — Doing everything it can to reach the MLS Cup Playoffs, the Los Angeles Football Club is unbeaten in five straight matches following a dominant 3-0 victory over the Western Conference-leading Seattle Sounders on Tuesday night.

With the rest of the league playing Wednesday, LAFC and Seattle stepped on the field at Banc of California Stadium with all eyes on them battling for a critical three points in the 32nd match of the year for both clubs.

LAFC snatched the lead in the 21st minute when a beautiful pass into space by Raheem Edwards found Brian Rodriguez streaking behind the Seattle defense. The 21-year-old Uruguayan forward toed his shot underneath Seattle goalkeeper Sefan Frei.

Before taking the lead, LAFC (12-12-8, 44 points) had been content to sit patiently and wait for Seattle (17-8-7, 58 points) to run at them to create space. Afterward, Coach Bob Bradley’s side pushed the initiative with its counter-press and clamped down inside the visitors’ half of the field.

“In moments when we are not pressing we are compact, so we’re difficult to break down,” Bradley said. “We made it hard on the other team, which is important in big games.

“The team played with great intensity, the first half especially in terms of collective movement and really closing things down.”

Starting a 3-5-2 formation, Bradley credited the midfield trio featuring Edwards, Latif Blessing and Diego Palacios while Eduard Atuesta remained out with a shoulder injury and Jose Cifuentes was suspended due to yellow card accumulation.

“Their intensity really set the tone for the rest of the team,” Bradley said.

LAFC nearly picked up a second goal in the 38th minute, when Rodriguez synced up with red-hot forward Cristian “Chicho” Arango and Latif Blessing for a weaving sequence that forced a goal line save by defender Nouhou Tolo as Rodriguez stood unmarked at the far post.

All season long LAFC had conceded goals at inopportune moments, but just before halftime Blessing sent the hosts into the locker room in full control of the match.

A turnover near the midfield line allowed Edwards room to advance the ball, which he did to Kim Moon-Hwan on the right flank as Blessing slipped unseen to the near post.

The South Korean defender, who received five stitches following a hard collision with the referee in the club’s last match at Minnesota, dropped a chipped pass a step inside the 6-yard box that teed up Blessing’s simple half-volley.

“I am happy but not too happy,” Blessing said. “We have two games to go.”

For the first time in a long time, the pressure valve inside LAFC’s home stadium was released.

Seattle – now winless in its last four matches – threw a couple of haymakers at the start of the second half. A Nouhou header banged off the crossbar, and a minute later LAFC goalkeeper Jamal Blackman dove to his left to save a headed shot by Fredy Montero that preserved the club’s first shutout (and the first of his MLS career) since a 4-0 rout of Sporting Kansas City in early September.

Seattle’s push for a club-record 10th road win this season and its 200th victory since entering MLS in 2009 soon subsided, and Arango ended any doubt about the outcome in the 51st minute.

Connecting for his 13th goal in 15 appearances since joining LAFC in August, the Colombian forward hammered a dipping shot from well outside the box that beat Frei.

“I decided to take a shot because in the first half I didn’t have an opportunity,” Arango said. “Thankfully it went in. As a forward I must have shots otherwise I’m not doing my job.”

The rest of the match felt like a celebration for LAFC supporters.

Blackman, the 6-foot-7 English goalkeeper who took over for Tomas Romero six games ago, made several elegant saves when he was called upon in front of the 3252 supporters in the North End, who, along with nearly everyone else in the building, went wild when Carlos Vela returned to action for the first time since Aug. 21.

The 32-year-old Mexican forward immediately donned the captain’s arm band, and played a solid 15 minutes following an arduous recovery from a strained right hamstring and a quadriceps injury, both of which have limited the 2019 MLS MVP to just nine full matches all year.

“We were all so excited to get Carlos back on the field,” Bradley said. “You could hear it in the stadium. He’s such a special player. He’s such an important part of what’s gone on here since the beginning.

“Tonight was just to get him back and was also a way of really thanking our fans and letting them know that Carlos is working hard and wants to be on the field. We’ll see between now and Tuesday how much progress he can make.”

Arango echoed that sentiment.

“Seeing Carlos return is a happy feeling for us,” Arango said. “He’s a great leader. The supporters love him, and we do too. Hopefully, we can have him around for much more time and get rid of those injuries.”

The victory, which capped an 11-day stretch that saw LAFC add 10 of a possible 12 points to its total, pushed the team into seventh place in the conference, and, pending results from Wednesday’s slate of games, potentially in position to control its own destiny for a postseason berth.

Vancouver, which is tied with LAFC but behind on two tiebreakers, hosts Minnesota United FC before its Nov. 2 match at LAFC.

NOTES

Both teams were missing key players from past rivalry matchups due to injuries. Seattle played without Raul Ruidiaz (knee injury) and Joao Paulo (yellow card accumulation), while LAFC was without midfielders Eduard Atuesta (right shoulder injury), Jose Cifuentes (yellow card accumulation) and Francisco Ginella (injured). … “Ted Lasso” actors Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt and Brett Goldstein attended the match in LAFC gear. Hunt, who plays Coach Beard, is an LAFC supporter and ticket holder.

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Sacha Kljestan’s late penalty helps Galaxy top Portland

  • LA Galaxy defender Derrick Williams, center, heads the ball during the second half of an MLS soccer match against the Portland Timbers Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy midfielder Jonathan dos Santos, right, controls the ball in front of Portland Timbers midfielder Cristhian Paredes during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Portland Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark (12) stops a shot from LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez (14) during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy defender Derrick Williams defends against Portland Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco (10) during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez, right, heads the ball during the first half of the team’s MLS soccer match against the Portland Timbers on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Portland Timbers forward Yimmi Chara (23) tries to kick the ball, as LA Galaxy defender Nick DePuy heads it during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Portland Timbers forward Yimmi Chara controls the ball during the first half of the team’s MLS soccer match against the LA Galaxy on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Portland Timbers defender Pablo Bonilla, left, dribbles past LA Galaxy forward Kevin Cabral (9) during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy midfielder Sacha Kljestan scores on a penalty kick during the second half of the team’s MLS soccer match against the Portland Timbers on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy midfielder Sacha Kljestan, center, celebrates after scoring on a penalty kick during the second half against the Portland Timbers in an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy midfielder Efrain Alvarez, right, dribbles against the Portland Timbers during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy defender Derrick Williams, right, works against Portland Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez, right, reacts after a missed shot on a goal during the second half of an MLS soccer match against the Portland Timbers Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget, right, dribbles against the Portland Timbers during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez, center left, celebrates with a teammate after a win over the Portland Timbers during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez, left, reacts after a foul during the second half of an MLS soccer match against the Portland Timbers Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez, center, celebrates after a win over the Portland Timbers during an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez (14) kicks the ball into the net for a goal during the second half of the team’s MLS soccer match against the Portland Timbers on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Portland Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco, center (10) is hugged by teammates after his goal during the second half of the team’s MLS soccer match against the LA Galaxy on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy defender Julian Araujo leaps over Portland Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez (14) celebrates his goal next to Portland Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez (14) kicks the ball into the net for a goal during the second half of the team’s MLS soccer match against the Portland Timbers, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond, left, watches as the ball goes over his head for a goal on a kick from Portland Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy midfielder Sacha Kljestan, center, celebrates after scoring on a penalty kick against the Portland Timbers during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy midfielder Sacha Kljestan, center, celebrates after scoring on a penalty kick during the second half against the Portland Timbers in an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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CARSON — At times this season, the Galaxy looked to be a lock for the MLS Cup Playoffs.

In the cruel world of Major League Soccer, it is best not to count your chickens before they’re hatched.

On Saturday night, feeling the crunch on the season and the weight of a nine-game winless streak, the Galaxy finally exhaled a bit thanks to Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez’s 62nd-minute goal and later Sacha Kljestan’s successful penalty, to lead the way to a 2-1 win and breathed some much-needed life into its playoff lives.

“For sure there was an exhale,” Galaxy coach Greg Vanney said. “But I do feel like from the group there was a confidence building, it was something that they deserved, they’ve deserved it I felt during this stretch and we didn’t get it. I hope the group feels like there is a shift in momentum here that we got over the hump and we got a real opportunity in the coming week to take more points.”

With the score tied at 1-1, Efrain Alvarez on the ball, made two cutting moves and was fouled in the box and referee Victor Rivas pointed to the penalty spot in the second minute of stoppage time.

Kljestan stepped up and converted, just under Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark.

“I thought were in total control, we had a lot of possession, we created some great chances and it felt like one of those games in the first half where, they were going to get one chance and they were going to score,” Kljestan said. “They scored a fluky goal and you go, oh no, not again.

“To get that win in the end, I think it is a big exhale for everybody and now, hopefully, it is start of winning streak or an unbeaten run.”

Kljestan never hesitated with his kick, going to Clark’s right and beating him. He said he doesn’t focus on the goalkeeper’s tendencies.

“I don’t pay attention to the goalies,” he said. “I decide the morning of the game where I’m going to shoot if I get a penalty. This morning, I had a feeling we were going to get a penalty, I just didn’t know if I would be on the field to take it or not. I knew when I put the ball down, I was going to shoot that way.”

With the win, the Galaxy, who could have fallen below the playoff line if results went a certain way on Sunday, moved up to sixth on 42 points, tied with Real Salt Lake.

The Galaxy is now 12-11-6 with five games remaining

The Galaxy’s opening goal was much deserved considering how the team dominated the first half and into the second half.

Still, it came from a bit of nothing. Julian Araujo’s cross for the far post. Portland defender Larry’s Mabiala, instead of clearing the ball, leaped over it, thinking it was going to roll out. However, Hernandez didn’t quit, going low with a slide to poke the ball in.

In the 72nd minute, Portland’s Sebastian Blanco found himself unmarked on the left and shot in a chip shot that eluded Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond to make it 1-1.

The goal sucked the life out of the crowd as the game went into the additional four minutes of added time, it looked as if the Galaxy was headed for what would have been a disappointing draw.

This was the third meeting of the season between the teams. They had split the previous two.

The Galaxy started the game looking like a team that had figured things out, putting the Timbers under pressure from the outset of the game. Unfortunately, despite the pressure and the near chances, the final act of putting the ball into the goal was never accomplished, sending the teams into halftime scoreless.

The Galaxy will return to action Wednesday at Houston.

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Sacha Kljestan’s late penalty lifts Galaxy to win over Portland Timbers

  • LA Galaxy defender Derrick Williams, center, heads the ball during the second half of an MLS soccer match against the Portland Timbers Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy midfielder Jonathan dos Santos, right, controls the ball in front of Portland Timbers midfielder Cristhian Paredes during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Portland Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark (12) stops a shot from LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez (14) during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy defender Derrick Williams defends against Portland Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco (10) during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez, right, heads the ball during the first half of the team’s MLS soccer match against the Portland Timbers on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Portland Timbers forward Yimmi Chara (23) tries to kick the ball, as LA Galaxy defender Nick DePuy heads it during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Portland Timbers forward Yimmi Chara controls the ball during the first half of the team’s MLS soccer match against the LA Galaxy on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Portland Timbers defender Pablo Bonilla, left, dribbles past LA Galaxy forward Kevin Cabral (9) during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy midfielder Sacha Kljestan scores on a penalty kick during the second half of the team’s MLS soccer match against the Portland Timbers on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy midfielder Sacha Kljestan, center, celebrates after scoring on a penalty kick during the second half against the Portland Timbers in an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy midfielder Efrain Alvarez, right, dribbles against the Portland Timbers during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy defender Derrick Williams, right, works against Portland Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez, right, reacts after a missed shot on a goal during the second half of an MLS soccer match against the Portland Timbers Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget, right, dribbles against the Portland Timbers during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez, center left, celebrates with a teammate after a win over the Portland Timbers during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez, left, reacts after a foul during the second half of an MLS soccer match against the Portland Timbers Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez, center, celebrates after a win over the Portland Timbers during an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez (14) kicks the ball into the net for a goal during the second half of the team’s MLS soccer match against the Portland Timbers on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Portland Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco, center (10) is hugged by teammates after his goal during the second half of the team’s MLS soccer match against the LA Galaxy on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy defender Julian Araujo leaps over Portland Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez (14) celebrates his goal next to Portland Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez (14) kicks the ball into the net for a goal during the second half of the team’s MLS soccer match against the Portland Timbers, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond, left, watches as the ball goes over his head for a goal on a kick from Portland Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy midfielder Sacha Kljestan, center, celebrates after scoring on a penalty kick against the Portland Timbers during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy midfielder Sacha Kljestan, center, celebrates after scoring on a penalty kick during the second half against the Portland Timbers in an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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CARSON — At times this season the Galaxy looked to be a lock for the MLS Cup Playoffs.

In the cruel world of Major League Soccer, it is best not to count your chickens before they’re hatched.

Saturday, feeling the crunch on the season and the weight of a nine-game winless streak, the Galaxy finally exhaled a bit thanks to a Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez’s 62nd minute goal and later Sacha Kljestan’s successful penalty, to lead the way to a 2-1 win and breathed some much-needed life into its playoff lives.

“For sure there was an exhale,” Galaxy coach Greg Vanney said. “But I do feel like from the group there was a confidence building, it was something that they deserved, they’ve deserved it I felt during this stretch and we didn’t get it. I hope the group feels like there is a shift in momentum here that we got over the hump and we got a real opportunity in the coming week to take more points.”

With the game tied at 1-1, Efrain Alvarez on the ball, made two cutting moves and was fouled in the box and referee Victor Rivas pointed to the penalty spot in the second minute of stoppage time..

Kljestan stepped up and converted, just under Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark.

“I thought were in total control, we had a lot of possession, we created some great chances and it felt like one of those games in the first half where, they were going to get one chance and they were going to score,” Kljestan said. “They scored a fluky goal and you go, oh no, not again.

“To get that win in the end, I think it is a big exhale for everybody and now, hopefully, it is start of winning streak or an unbeaten run.”

Kljestan never hesitated with his kick, going to Clark’s right and beating him. He said he doesn’t focus on the goalkeeper’s tendencies.

“I don’t pay attention to the goalies,” he said. “I decide the morning of the game where I’m going to shoot if I get a penalty. This morning, I had a feeling we were going to get a penalty, I just didn’t know if I would be on the field to take it or not. I knew when I put the ball down, I was going to shoot that way.”

With the win, the Galaxy, who could have fallen below the playoff line if results went a certain way on Sunday, moved up to sixth on 42 points, tied with Real Salt Lake.

The Galaxy is now 12-11-6 with five games remaining

The Galaxy’s opening goal was much deserved considering how the Galaxy dominated the game in the first half and into the second half.

Still, it came from a bit of nothing. Julian Araujo’s cross for the far post. Portland defender Larry’s Mabiala, instead of clearing the ball, leapt over it, thinking it was going to roll out. However, Hernandez didn’t quit, going low with a slide to poke the ball in.

In the 72nd minute, Portland’s Sebastian Blanco found himself unmarked on the left and shot in a chip shot that eluded Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond to make it 1-1.

The goal sucked the life out of the crowd as the game went into the additional four minutes of added time, it looked as if the Galaxy was headed for what would have been a disappointing draw.

This was the third meeting of the season between the teams. They had split the previous two.

The Galaxy started the game looking like a team that had figured things out, putting the Timbers under pressure from the outset of the game. Unfortunately, despite the pressure and the near chances, the final act of putting the ball into the goal was never accomplished, sending the teams into halftime scoreless.

The Galaxy will return to action Wednesday on the road at the Houston Dynamo.

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El Tráfico: Grandsir, Bond help Galaxy tie with LAFC

  • Confetti flies as former Los Angeles Galaxy player Landon Donovan’s statue is unveiled at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Former Los Angeles Galaxy player Landon Donovan, center, waves to fans during his statue unveiling at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Former Los Angeles Galaxy player Landon Donovan name is placed in the stadium during his induction into Galaxy’s Ring of Honor at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Former Los Angeles Galaxy player Landon Donovan speaks during his induction into Galaxy’s Ring of Honor at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Former Los Angeles Galaxy player Landon Donovan mimics his statue during its unveiling at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles Galaxy fans wait for the statue unveiling of former Los Angeles Galaxy player Landon Donovan at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Former Los Angeles Galaxy player Landon Donovan admires his statue during its unveiling at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles Galaxy mascot Cozmo walks along former Los Angeles Galaxy player Landon Donovan during his inductrion into Galaxy’s Ring of Honor at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles Galaxy fans hold up a banner during the statue unveiling for former Los Angeles Galaxy player Landon Donovan at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Former Los Angeles Galaxy player Landon Donovan mimics his statue during its unveiling at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Former Los Angeles Galaxy player Landon Donovan, center, prepares to speak during his statue unveiling at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Former Los Angeles Galaxy player Landon Donovan, center, speaks during his statue unveiling at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Former Los Angeles Galaxy player Landon Donovan, center, walks on stage to applause during his statue unveiling at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Former Los Angeles Galaxy player Landon Donovan, center, speaks during his statue unveiling at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Former Los Angeles Galaxy player Landon Donovan, center, speaks during his statue unveiling at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Jonathan dos Santos (8) battles Los Angeles FC midfielder Eduard Atuesta (20) and forward Cristian Arango (29) during the first half of a MLS match at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Samuel Grandsir (11), right, after scoring a goal during the first half of a MLS match at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles FC defender Mamadou Fall (5) scores a goal on a header from behind the Los Angeles Galaxy players during the first half of a MLS match at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles Galaxy defender Sega Coulibaly (4) cashes down the ball followed by Los Angeles FC forward Brian Rodriguez (17) during the first half of a MLS match at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

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CARSON — There were no losers among Los Angeles’s soccer faithful on Sunday.

There were no winners, either, yet a 1-1 tie between the Los Angeles Football Club and the L.A. Galaxy at Dignity Health Sports Park provided a desperately needed change of pace for two sides that entered the third “El Trafico” of 2021 reeling from three-match losing streaks in the heat of a playoff chase.

Messages from coaches on both benches were similar during a moment in which L.A.’s Major League Soccer teams are struggling to qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs.

A break here. Some luck there. A fortunate bounce. Keep working. Keep pushing. Something good will hopefully give as the rivals settled in for their third match in less than 10 days.

A choppy first half included five yellow cards from referee Armando Villarreal, who received plenty of flack from both sides, particularly opposing forwards Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Brian Rodriguez. LAFC limited the Galaxy star forward to one shot on 38 touches, and in the 67 minutes Rodriguez played he managed one quality shot.

“A hard fought game. A difficult derby,” LAFC head coach Bob Bradley said. “I thought our mentality was very good and I’m really proud of the way players pushed and competed.”

Villarreal didn’t hand out more bookings in the second half, but the intensity and choppiness of the match remained high.

“I think guys are battling to get the three points that we all feel we need to shift momentum and see some breathing space in the table,” said Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney, whose team is now winless in its last nine contests. “But we didn’t get it.

“We’re looking for any break right now just to get momentum. We’re looking to connect in any situation that can fall in our favor because I think the guys are working really hard.”

Despite the best efforts of the five-time MLS champions, it was LAFC that opened the scoring in the 11th minute.

Defender Mamadou Fall dusted Galaxy Rayan Raveloson on his approach to the six-yard box, where the 18-year-old center back rose above three Galaxy defenders to meet Eduard Atuesta’s corner kick with his head.

During 13 appearances this season, the lanky Senegalese player has scored three goals, all the headed variety.

“Years ago I was in high school watching ‘El Trafico,’” Fall said. ‘Now I’m able to score. It’s great. Both teams came out with intensity trying to win.”

The Galaxy brought an announced sell-out crowd of 25,174 to life in the 19th minute when French midfielder Samuel Grandsir broke the LAFC backline thanks to a through ball from his Spanish teammate Victor Vazquez.

Grandsir needed one touch to dribble past LAFC goalkeeper Jamal Blackman and pass the ball into the back of the net for his third goal of the season.

“Today I gave a good assist but the finish from Samuel was great,” said Vazquez, who was subbed off 55 minutes into the physical contest.

Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond made several key stops among his six saves to keep his team in the game by denying Rodriguez’s low hard shot in the first half, a Cristian Arango attempt to start the second and a dangerous strike by Francisco Ginella with an hour to go.

“I want to recognize the team effort,” Arango said. “Everyone played well and we fought to the end. I feel the result was just tonight.”

LAFC totaled 14 shots, seven on target, in a match Bradley said did not represent his team’s best passing display because it opted for too many long balls instead of connecting quicker connections.

Recording zero saves in the match, LAFC goalie Jamal Blackman was less influential in his second consecutive start than the fellow English goalie on the other side of the field. But he, too, was the beneficiary of the Galaxy’s misfortunate when a Nicholas DePuy header hit the crossbar.

Breaks on both sides failed to come as the looked for the lead and shots bounded off the woodwork.

“I think sometimes we were rushing our attacks,” said Vanney, who challenged his players to move forward and build speed into their attack. “We didn’t allow for some of our attacks to develop.”

“We’ve got to make the goalkeeper make more saves,” he continued. “We’re at that time of year when you want to put multiple balls on net and we want to score as much as we can.”

The Galaxy (11-11-6, 39 points) and LAFC (9-12-7, 34 points) remain within five points of one another as the league pauses for two weeks for World Cup qualifying.

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Kikanovic, Javier López score, Earthquakes beat LAFC

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Benjamin Kikanovic and Javier López each scored a goal to give the San Jose Earthquakes a 2-0 victory over LAFC on Saturday night.

The Earthquakes (8-9-9) have won two straight and are tied with LAFC (9-11-6) and Vancouver (8-8-9), each three points behind seventh-place Real Salt Lake.

Kikanovic broke through three defenders and past goalkeeper Tomás Romero for an easy tap in the 3rd minute. Two minutes into the second half, Marcos López crossed to Javier López, who fired his left-footed shot into the back of the net from short range for his 11th goal of the season.

LAFC’s Cristian Arango headed a ball to Danny Musovski, but he put his attempt off the side netting. LAFC has lost two straight following three consecutive wins.

 

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Cristian Arango scores twice, LAFC beats Real Salt Lake

Entering the last third of the season, the Los Angeles Football Club needs points any way they can find them.

Sunday night at Banc of California Stadium during the last Major League Soccer clash of the weekend LAFC did exactly that, holding onto a 3-2 lead they were gifted to nail down a crucial Western Conference showdown against Real Salt Lake.

Two goals from Cristian Arango plus an own-goal lifted LAFC (8-9-6, 30 points) into dead heat with RSL for the last MLS Cup postseason spot.

RSL (8-8-6, 30 points) continues to sit in the seventh position due to a two goal advantage over LAFC via the goal differential tiebreaker.

“Tonight we have a great reward worthy of our great effort,” Arango said. “We suffer together and celebrate together.”

The fastest goal in LAFC history — the eighth quickest in MLS competition — delivered the Black & Gold an advantage 20 seconds after the opening whistle.

The sequence started near midfield when LAFC’s Colombian captain Eduard Atuesta picked up the ball and dribbled into RSL territory.

Atuesta picked out midfielder Bryce Duke running to his right, which opened a window to feed Danny Musovski in the box. Duke’s delivery, his second assist in as many matches, was redirected and fell to Arango, whose clean touch allowed him to beat RSL goalkeeper David Ochao.

The two sides tussled over the opening half hour until RSL’s Damir Kreilach again made an impact on the series.

The midfielder’s curling one-timer from outside the box leveled the score at one apiece and set in motion a frantic give and take — and give — 90 minutes.

“Wild game,” Bradley said. “Sometimes as you get into the latter part of the season and you’re playing these six point games they can become fast and furious. There’s mistakes on both sides.”

After Kreilach’s equalizer, LAFC wasted no time regaining the lead.

Arango, 26, secured his brace two minutes later when Atuesta lofted a chipped pass at his countryman’s head.

The redirected pass produced Arango’s fourth goal in LAFC’s last three contests.

“He wanted to be here and from the beginning you could tell he’s got a strong character and a great mentality,” Bradley said regarding the Colombian forward. “That part rubs off in a good way on everybody.

“He’s a guy you can count on. He plays for the team. He puts himself in really good positions in the box. He showed he can play an important role for us.”

RSL leveled the contest in the 48th minute when a rare miscue by Duke created a breakaway that gave forward Anderson Julio an opportunity to pick out the near post and beat Tomas Romero.

Then, as the hour mark approached, RSL gave away the game winner and a season sweep for LAFC.

After breaking up an attack in front of The 3252 supporters in the north end of the stadium, RSL defender Toni Datkovic did not hear Ochao try to wave him off as the ball trundled into the box.

Instead Datkovic gently nudged the ball back toward his goal, and Ochao could not reroute himself to make a save.

“There’s going to be some sort of crazy wild feeling aspect to games, especially for teams that are trying to get into the playoffs,” defender Sebastien Ibeagha said following his second consecutive start on the LAFC backline. “For us, we have quality, it’s about being composed and calm and letting our football shine.

“It’s a stepping stone. We’re trying to push this streak and go into the playoffs.”

After failing to score more than two times in any of its first 20 matches, LAFC has tallied three or more goals in its last three.

The club’s 10 goals during that stretch topped its total over seven contests between July 21 to Aug. 21, before a 3-3 tie to Galaxy preceded an end to the club’s historically bad eight-match winless streak that had dropped them as low as 11th in the conference standings.

Following with a pair of wins, LAFC, now in eighth position, heads on the road for matches in Austin, Portland and San Jose.

Away from home, LAFC is 2-7-1.

Only four of LAFC’s 11 remaining games take place at Banc of California Stadium, where it has accumulated 23 of its 30 points.

“We’re on an upward bound path where all we can do is continue to gain,” Arango said. “With all these goals we hope to accumulate more.”

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Whitecaps hand LAFC its 4th consecutive loss

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Ryan Gauld scored in the 89th minute and the Vancouver Whitecaps beat Los Angeles FC, 2-1, on Saturday night in their first game at B.C. Place in 539 days.

Brian White tied it in the 60th to help the Whitecaps (5-7-8, 23 points), who are led by former LAFC assistant Marc Dos Santos, tie a franchise record with their eight-game unbeaten streak.

Diego Rossi scored on a penalty shot in first-half stoppage time for LAFC (6-9-5, 23 points), which has lost four in a row and is mired in a seven-match winless rut.

The Whitecaps played their last home game in front of fans on Feb. 29, 2020 – a 3-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City. They played the rest of their home games at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, until Saturday.

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Whitecaps beat Diego Rossi, LAFC

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Ryan Gauld scored in the 89th minute and Vancouver Whitecaps beat Los Angeles FC 2-1 on Saturday night in their first game at B.C. Place in 539 days.

Brian White tied it in the 60th to help the Whitecaps (5-7-8) tie the franchise record with an eight-game unbeaten streak.

Diego Rossi scored on a penalty for LAFC (6-9-5) in first-half stoppage time.

The Whitecaps played their last home game in front of fans on Feb. 29, 2020 — a 3-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City. They played the rest of their home games at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, until Saturday.

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