The LA Galaxy didn’t figure to have much of a chance against Minnesota United without Zlatan Ibrahimovic at his best, but a stellar performance from the Galaxy midfield made the difference and helped keep the Galaxy’s season alive.
Sebastian Lletget and Jonathan Dos Santos scored second-half goals to lead the Galaxy to a 2-1 victory over Minnesota United on Sunday at Allianz Field, making the Galaxy the only lower seed to survive the opening round of the MLS playoffs.
The victory sets up a Western Conference semifinal showdown with Los Angeles FC, giving us the first playoff edition of the LA derby.
It didn’t look like the Galaxy would survive their trip to Minnesota, not with Ibrahimovic clearly off his game, and not with the Loons creating dangerous first-half chances that threatened to breach the Galaxy’s shaky defense. Unfortunately for the home team, those chances didn’t turn into goals, and missed chances like the one delivered by Robin Lod in the 23rd minute wound up being costly.
Roman Metanire set up Lod’s missed chance, and served up another quality ball in the 55th minute, only to have Angelo Rodriguez fail to connect on what would have been a free header.
Minnesota’s misses kept the Galaxy in the match despite Ibrahimovic’s struggles with his touch and passing connections, but still played a part in helping the Galaxy open the scoring when he had a shot blocked, setting up a rebound at the feet of Sebastian Lletget, who reacted quickly to bury the chance in the 71st minute.
A stunned crowd at Allianz Field hadn’t fully processed the Lletget goal before Dos Santos doubled the damage with a beauty of a goal just four minutes later. The Mexican national team star curled a 25 yard shot past Vito Mannone to give the Galaxy full control.
Jan Gregus gave the Loons a lifeline with an 87th-minute finish off a Darwin Quintero pass, but the home team failed to muster much else on the way to a loss in their first MLS playoff game.
Minnesota United managed just three shots on goal on a night when it took 16 total shots. Darwin Quintero’s illness kept him out of the starting lineup, and his absence in the first half was tough to overcome, with Kevin Molino enduring a disappointing night, and Rodriguez struggling to break his recent goal drought.
The Galaxy defense didn’t finish with a shutout, but did put together a solid performance, with Guillermo Barros Schelotto going with the surprising combination of four central defenders across the back-line. Giancarlo Gonzalez started at right back, and Dave Romney at left back, and they combined with centerbacks Diego Polenta and Daniel Steres to limit Minnesota’s dangerous chances.
A much tougher test awaits in the form of Supporters’ Shield winners LAFC, a team that has never beaten the Galaxy, but a team that will be favored to snap that winless rut against their LA neighbors.