LOS ANGELES - The inaugural season for St. Louis City SC in Major League Soccer has been one that’s far exceeded expectations, both of those internally with the club and those externally analyzing them. But if there’s been one weakness, it’s been the team’s ability to get results away from CITY PARK.
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City looked to break that road duck on Sunday night taking on the Galaxy outside LA. An evening that started out brightly for the visitors ended with them fighting to hold onto a point in a 2-2 draw.
It took just four minutes for City to open the scoring in Carson, just south of the city of Los Angeles. Jared Stroud got behind the Galaxy defense, and played a low cross into the path of Sam Adeniran, who beat LA goalkeeper Jonathan Bond.
“He’s so strong on the ball,” said Adeniran’s fellow City striker Joao Klauss postgame. “He had a really good game tonight.”
An ideal start on the road for those in CITY Red. Outside of last week’s defeat on the road against Sporting Kansas City, scoring first has usually been a harbinger of victories for St. Louis City.
The Galaxy, as those familiar with them would expect, would dictate the match through spells of heavy possession, but only really had a few half chances on crosses to Serbian striker Dejan Joveljic that Roman Bürki comfortably handled.
Just as it felt like the hosts were starting to gain a foothold in the match, their progress was undone by 15 seconds of brilliance from City in the 28th minute.
Aziel Jackson claimed the ball off a City defensive clearance, and made a slaloming run through the heart of the Galaxy defense. He spotted attacker Joao Klauss making a run into open space towards the right-hand side of the Galaxy 18-yard box and played a perfect pass into the path of the Brazilian. Klauss sent a low shot right through the legs of Jonathan Bond for a second City goal.
It’s Klauss’s first goal since his return from his lengthy quad injury. He looked like he hadn’t missed a step.
“After these four months out, (the goal) was really important for my confidence,” said Klauss. “My confidence hasn’t been great after the injury, so to score tonight feels really good.”
“We’ve adjusted Klauss’s role slightly,” said City head coach Carnell. “Having him float between the lines a bit more… I liked what I saw (from Klauss), not just on the ball but against the ball as well.”
City would take the two-goal advantage into the half against a Galaxy team that is desperate for points and results as they attempt to fight for a place in the MLS Playoffs.
The Galaxy came out in the second half showing that desperation, that urgency to change the flow of the game. Just six minutes into the second half, they would find the back of the net.
A shot from LA’s Tyler Boyd hit Sam Adeniran in his left hand, tucked by his side. A VAR check determined this to be a handball that denied a goal-scoring opportunity, giving the Galaxy a penalty.
To no one’s surprise, Riqui Puig stepped up to the spot and dispatched the penalty to the top left corner of the goal, beyond a diving Roman Bürki.
That penalty call also gave a yellow card to Sam Adeniran. Some consider the decision to give a yellow for a handball in the box to be harsh, as the penalty/usual goal is punishment enough.
Whatever the case, Adeniran had a yellow card on his name. Less than 10 minutes later, Adeniran made a rough tackle on Riqui Puig, and drew his second yellow card and his ejection from the game.
“I’m not sure what a handball is or isn’t anymore,” said Carnell on the decision. “I feel for the boys, who had the wind taken out of their sails.”
For the final 30ish minutes of game action, City had to defend their one-goal lead against the Galaxy down a man.
They would also lose defender Joakim Nilsson to what seemed to be a hamstring or thigh injury around the 75th minute mark. “We hope (having to sub Nilsson) is just a cautionary move.”
That lead lasted just over 20 minutes. A foul from Anthony Markanich gave LA a free kick in a dangerous area, and substitute striker Billy Sharp poked home a set piece from close range to draw the Galaxy level in the 83rd minute.
For the second game in a row, City got out to a lead on the road and gave up that lead. Getting results away from home has been proving tougher and tougher for Bradley Carnell’s side.
With all the momentum in the match at their back, LA pushed for a winning goal in the remaining time. They almost found it in the 90th minute, when Riqui Puig again ran through City’s defense and Billy Sharp’s header went just wide.
The fourth official’s board went up showing nine added minutes to the original 90. With a penalty, a few VAR reviews, a red card, and of course, the two Galaxy goals, stoppage time added up.
City’s work wasn’t done. They had to survive the extra nine minutes to get a result, and survive they did. The final score in Carson: a 2-2 draw.
“Disappointed to leave with one point,” said Carnell following the draw. “We get challenged (the red card) and have to find a way to survive. It’s the small details that cost us today.”
“It’s not the best feeling, we were up 2-0 at halftime, we have to be better,” said Joao Klauss. “We have to get better at the details. We can’t draw these games.”
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times in a tale of two halves for City on Sunday. City dictated the first half playing their patented brand of soccer, but being forced to defend for the last 45 minutes proved their downfall in the end.
If there is a positive from the weekend of MLS action, LAFC lost to Portland, and Seattle didn’t play, so City’s seven-point lead atop the Western Conference of MLS remains intact. City now has 48 points on the campaign, Seattle trails them with 41, and LAFC and Real Salt Lake both sit at 40, with LAFC ahead in the standings on goal differential.
It’s one more road test for City on Saturday, September 16, when they head to Houston to take on the Dynamo.
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