Houston Dynamo were cruelly denied a place in the MLS is Back knockout rounds as LA Galaxy snatched a late 1-1 draw on Thursday night.
A first-half Darwin Quintero free-kick put the Dynamo ahead, although questions will be asked of Galaxy ‘keeper David Bingham, who simply watched a seemingly tame effort go past him.
That effort seemed enough to send Tab Ramos’ men through to the knockout rounds until second-half stoppage time, when Maynor Figueroa endlessly hauled down Diedie Traore in to give away a penalty, which Cristian Pavon expertly dispatched.
As a result, the Houston crashed out with their opponents on Thursday night, with Eastern Conference champions New York City FC advancing instead.
So, what did we learn from another dramatic MLS is Back encounter?
1. A Bridge Too Far To ‘Cross’ For The Galaxy
The Galaxy had scored just four goals in four games prior to Thursday night’s meeting with Houston, conceding 10 at the other end along the way.
With that in mind, a win by three or more goals over the Dynamo seemed like a pipedream at best. Any optimism from Galaxy fans will have been quickly snuffed out by the turgid attacking display served up by their side pretty much from the kick-off.
As has been the case throughout Schelotto’s reign at the five-time MLS Cup champions so far, the Galaxy abandoned any semblance of fluidity or patience in favour of playing the percentages, lumping aimless crosses into the box. The problem is where last season, those percentages were high thanks to the imposing presence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the box, they’re now decidedly lower considering the centre-forwards now at the club’s disposal.
Through 15 minutes the Galaxy are 0/8 on crosses.
Why? Why tho?
Please stop. pic.twitter.com/VfPinjviw9
— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) July 24, 2020
That the Galaxy had 64% of the ball and put a whopping 34 crosses into the box but ended the match with just 1.34xG, most of which was generated by their penalty, to their name — according to InfoGol — is telling of how ineffective this style of play is proving. A short spell after the first hydration break aside, it was business as usual.
Javier Hernandez didn’t feature again due to injury but the fact that he was signed as the Ibrahimovic replacement, with no intention from Schelotto to change his side’s style of play, points to a huge disconnect between those in the dugout and those in charge of recruitment at LA Galaxy.
It has already cost them their place at MLS is Back, how much will it cost them once the regular season resumes?
2. Quintero Adds To Dynamo Optimism Despite Cruel Exit
Darwin Quintero has divided opinion during his time in Major League Soccer. On the one hand, he does have a habit of going missing when his side needs him the most. On the other, he had scored 25 goals in 64 appearances across all competitions in the United States prior to this season, so Minnesota United’s decision to let him leave was eyebrow-raising, to say the least.
Quintero opened his MLS is Back campaign in brilliant style 10 days ago, contributing two assists as the Dynamo played out a thrilling 3-3 draw against Supporters’ Shield holders LAFC. On Thursday, he further repaid the faith showed to him by La Naranja with what for so long looked like the winning goal against the Galaxy.
El Científico 🎯#HoldItDown pic.twitter.com/oDRdSkgv5J
— Houston Dynamo (@HoustonDynamo) July 24, 2020
Sure, David Bingham absolutely should have done better with Quintero’s effort, but it was still another match-winning performance from the Colombia international, who stepped up in the absence of the suspended Alberth Elis.
Yes, the Dynamo have been cruelly dumped out of MLS is Back, but there are plenty of positives to take into the regular season and the form of Quintero, which is showing signs of becoming consistent, is chief among them.
3. Cristian Pavon Is Wasted With The Galaxy
As mentioned, LA Galaxy conformed to every stereotype placed upon them in their current form against Houston Dynamo but one player who still managed to stand out despite another eyesore of a performance was Cristian Pavon.
Sure, the Argentina international wasn’t perfect, completing only 73% of his passes on the night, but that was a product of Pavon actually trying to unlock the Dynamo defence through intricate through-balls rather than aimless deliveries into the box.
Cristian Pavon buries the ball past the goalkeeper to level the match. 1-1. #LAvHOU pic.twitter.com/nSUMVptm4N
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) July 24, 2020
It would have been understandable if Pavon had let his head drop on Thursday given the ineptitude of those around him not just in this match, but since the start of the season, but to his credit, the 24-year-old never stopped trying to make things happen.
Pavon was responsible for five of the Galaxy’s 13 shots on the night — including putting away a late penalty to send the Dynamo home — and the number of times he could be seen expertly controlling difficult crosses when he had no right taking the ball down was impressive in itself. He should have had an assist in the final minute, but had to watch Ethan Zubak essentially give up when the ball had been laid on a plate for him by the Argentine.
If the Galaxy are to keep hold of Pavon — undisputedly their star talent — in the long-term, massive changes must be made to this team to play to his strengths.