Galaxy stumble through morning match, fall to Austin FC

Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports
Riqui Puig picked up his fifth yellow card this season in a 2-0 Galaxy loss to Austin FC, meaning he will miss the LA’s upcoming matchup with Seattle.

Following a tumultuous first 20 minutes, the Galaxy (5-2-3) couldn’t find the same rhythm on offense that has been displayed through the first 10 matches of the season, falling to Austin FC, 2-0 on Saturday in Austin, Texas.

The 10:45 a.m. start time at Q2 Stadium could be used as an excuse for the Galaxy’s slow start, but coach Greg Vanney said he tried to iterate the importance of the opening phase.

“We didn’t show up for the first 20 minutes. It was as simple as that,” Vanney said. “We talked about these early games.

“It was imperative to get off to a good start because the difference can be in the first 15 minutes and we came out and laid an egg.”

Miguel Berry started in place of the Galaxy’s leading goal scorer, Dejan Joveljic, who was sidelined because of a thigh injury. His absence was felt in the final third of the match.

Vanney said Joveljic will be evaluated “week-to-week” and he does not view the injury as long term. But said he sat Joveljic has an opportunity to heal the injury that has been an issue for weeks.

Austin, (4-3-3) winners of four of their last five, scored in the seventh minute when Diego Rubio took a ball from Jáder Obrian and drilled a right-footed shot to the bottom left corner of the net. 

Obrian doubled Austin’s lead in the 19th minute, after getting an assist from Alexander Ring on a counter attack. Obrian’s shot off his right foot went from the right side of the box to the bottom left corner of the net.

”After conceding, everything became more difficult,” Galaxy captain Maya Yoshida said. “There’s no point to finding an excuse, we have to focus on ourselve.

“This is a part of soccer, part of MLS, we have to adapt.”

With Joveljic missing, Berry didn’t provide the same scoring threat in the box and the Galaxy struggled to maintain possession in the waning minutes.

”[Berry] hasn’t played a ton of minutes with the group,” Vanney said. “Timing and rhythm and certain things that weren’t as precise as we’d like them to be.

“He always puts in. A shift and he’s always going to do some of the work. Again, it just comes down to how connected is the work to everybody else and what we’re trying to get done.”

In the second half, Berry came off for Diego Fagundez to try and switch things up offensively and use Joseph Paintsil as a false 9, to no avail, despite dominating possession and chances created.

”I was trying to shift some of our bodies around and see if we could speed up some things and try to use Joe’s [Paintsil’s] quickness between those centerbacks,” Vanney said.  “Because we controlled so much of the second half, there was a lot of set possessions, but there wasn’t a lot of space to work with.

Jalen Neal, appearing in his first game with the Galaxy in more than 300 days, started the second half in place of Martin Caceres.

”It was great to get Jalen going,” Vanney said. “He hasn’t played in a while but I thought this was a good game because we had a lot of the ball in the second half and he was able to do a lot more counter pressing and finding passes and things like that.

“He didn’t have to do a ton of defensive work which maybe, is a good way to get yourself back and going after a long stint away.”

John McCarthy stopped three shots for the Galaxy but he was outshined by Austin’s Brad Stuver, who notched his second straight shutout with four saves, with three coming in the first half.

Fagundez, who was traded from Austin to LA last season, was unable to score in his return to Q2 Stadium.

Next, the Galaxy will visit Seattle on May 5 to play the Sounders, who the Galaxy defeated 1-0, at Dignity Health Sports Park last month.

However, the Galaxy will be without one of their key playmakers as Riqui Puig was booked for his fifth yellow card of the season after the second Austin goal. Puig will be suspended for the Seattle match because of red-card accumulation.