By Alex Baker
(Vancouver, BC) Despite Vancouver midfielder Matias Laba having been sent off with over an hour remaining in the game, the Los Angeles Galaxy had to settle for a single point (tie) on the road against the Whitecaps at BC Place on Saturday night.
Dutch midfielder, Nigel de Jong, who wore the captain’s armband for the Galaxy for the first time, admitted to being frustrated at the Galaxy’s inability to capitalize on its man advantage.
“I mean it was an opportunity that was missed to be honest. You come against 10 men and you can’t finish it off,” said de Jong. “When you have the advantage of one man more, you got to finish it off.”
Fans who were expecting a glimpse of the LA Galaxy’s big stars were likely disappointed, as LA lined up against the Caps without its three designated players; Robbie Keane, Giovani Dos Santos, and Steven Gerrard.
The 27,038 fans in attendance weren’t the only ones who missed the star trio, as de Jong admitted their absence had an impact on the Galaxy’s performance.
“It is a factor of course. They bring a lot of experience in the team and especially with their technical skills they are very important players to us,” said de Jong. “But it is what it is, you know sometimes you got to deal with the situation how it is, You can’t talk about missing them at a moment like today. Other guys got to stand up. That’s football as well.”
Laba was shown red in the 58th minute for a studs-up challenge on the Galaxy’s Mike Magee. Despite the reckless nature of the tackle home fans felt aggrieved by the decision and even Magee himself questioned if the card was the right call.
“He came in with his studs, he got me. I didn’t know how bad it was so I didn’t know if it should have been a red or a yellow,” said Magee. “To be honest when I got up I was asking the ref if he got a card. So I was kind of pleading for a yellow and he got a red.”
Ironically, Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson addressed the problem with reckless play in MLS during his pre-match comments.
“We’re always trying to improve that part of the game, the studs up tackles, the elbows, the naughty challenges,” said Robinson. “Will you stop it totally? I’m not sure. “
The Galaxy’s best chance to take all three points came in the 70th minute when Sebastian Lletget beat his man and played a pitch-perfect pass in to Gyasi Zardes in the box. The USMNT forward, who’d come on as a substitute early in the second half, got off a point blank shot that Vancouver keeper David Ousted bravely blocked with his face.
“That one save he made was incredible,” admitted Magee afterwards. “I didn’t really see what happened but I was already celebrating and then not only does he get his face to it, but it somehow goes out of the goal, so hats off to him.”
While LA’s players were visibly frustrated at not having been unable to take advantage of Laba’s sending off, in the end a point on the road was an improvement over the team’s results away from home so far this season.
“We just got to improve, we’ve got to stay positive, that’s the main thing,” said de Jong. “It’s only the fourth game in the season, we didn’t lose. We take a point back home.”
“But at the end of the day, I’d rather have the three points.”
The result leaves the Galaxy sitting fourth in the Western Conference standings, tied on points with the Colorado Rapid, Vancouver and the San Jose Earthquakes.
LA Galaxy resumes its MLS campaign on April 10 when it welcomes reigning league champions, Portland Timbers to the Stub Hub Center.
Picture by ISI Photos.