Looking to carry their home form to the road, the Los Angeles Galaxy attempt to extend their seven-match unbeaten streak Saturday when they face the New York Red Bulls to open a two-match road swing.
The Galaxy (7-1-1) are one point behind city rivals Los Angeles FC, and the two likely will be jockeying for the Western Conference lead all the way up to the first “El Trafico” on July 19. Los Angeles picked up its sixth win in seven matches and remained perfect at home (6-0-0) following its 2-1 victory over Real Salt Lake on Sunday.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored the go-ahead goal in the 78th minute, his MLS-high fourth match-winner and eighth overall. The towering striker stabbed a left-footed shot from six yards after a low cross from Sebastian Lletget, getting the best of a match-long battle with RSL defender Nedum Onuoha that included Ibrahimovic getting a yellow card for throwing him to the turf.
“My job is to score, to create and help my teammates,” said Ibrahimovic, who has 30 goals in 34 matches since joining the Galaxy last year. “For the moment, I’m scoring and there comes moments when you don’t score. Thanks to the balls and the service I get, I get to score. (Sunday), I scored one and last game I didn’t score. They keep trying and I keep trying. I’m happy for Uriel (Antuna), he gets to score also.”
Antuna opened the scoring in the 16th minute, latching onto Chris Pontius’ cross and scoring from close range for his first goal at any level as a professional. The 21-year-old was singled out for praise by Mexico national coach Tata Martino at a press conference in Atlanta to promote El Tri’s next matches and could be in line for a spot on their Gold Cup roster this summer.
New York (2-2-4) is seeking back-to-back wins for the first time this year after ending a five-match winless streak (0-1-4) with a 1-0 victory over FC Cincinnati last Saturday. Connor Lade made the club’s lone shot on target count, and the Red Bulls rode a bit of luck to claim all three points as first-year opponents FCC hit the woodwork three times in the second half.
Coach Chris Armas completely overhauled his formation, opting for three centerbacks with Sean Davis providing cover in the defensive midfield to allow his wide backs to pour forward. The team also appeared sharper after a pre-match pep talk from the 26-year-old Davis, who appears destined to wear the captain’s armband at some point for New York.
“Sean always finds the right words,” midfielder Danny Royer told Pro Soccer USA. “He’s honest in his words, and his sense of Red Bulls philosophy and what it takes to win a game and what it takes to play the way we want to play, he’s definitely one of those guys who knows it the best. And that was his message before the game. And I think everybody could relate on that.”
The Red Bulls may be without top striker Bradley Wright-Phillips for a second straight match due to a muscle strain. A three-time 20-goal scorer for the Red Bulls, Wright-Phillips has one in his first six matches.
Kaku’s 84th-minute penalty proved decisive as New York won 3-2 in the only meeting between the teams last year.
(Zlatan Ibrhaimovic/Diego Polenta photo courtesy LA Galaxy official Twitter account)