With a playoff berth secured and no chance to top Major League Soccer record-wise, it was a perfect opportunity Wednesday for Sounders FC coach Brian Schmetzer to experiment against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
But that’s no reason not to end the match with a little excitement, which is exactly what Raul Ruidiaz did by scoring in stoppage time as Seattle got out of the MLS contest with a 1-1 draw.
Wednesday, there were five lineup changes after Seattle lost to Colorado on Sunday. Initially, the look gave the impression of clipping an eagle as wingers Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan didn’t make the start. The duo combined for 11 goals and 11 assists this season.
The highflying pair entered the match early in the second half. But it was an offensive substitution by the Galaxy that made the difference at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif.
“It’s frustrating to give up games like this when you’re the more dominate team,” Alex Roldan said during a video conference call with media members.
Chicharito, Mexico’s career leading goal scorer, entered the match in the 69th minute and put the Galaxy on the board in the 78th minute. The striker’s arrival in January was hyped by the league, but the score Wednesday is just his second of the season.
That increased Seattle’s intensity, and Ruidiaz answered with the equalizer in stoppage time. The goal was Ruidiaz’s 11th this season.
“That made us a little bit more determined,” Schmetzer said of Los Angeles’ goal during a video call. “Credit to Will Bruin coming on (as a substitute) and making that play happen with his good layoff, Jordan playing the ball in and Raul scoring. The team never gives up, they salvaged a point out of a game I felt we were in control of.”
Otherwise, L.A.’s offense was stifled by Alex Roldan, Cristian’s younger brother, who replaced Kelvin Leerdam in the starting lineup. Roldan helped keep Galaxy striker Cristian Pavon scoreless. The latter has 10 goals and seven assists this season.
Roldan’s highlight was a block on Galaxy defender Daniel Steres’ shot attempt in the 15th minute when Roldan leapt to use a header and the ball bounced off the cross bar and was cleared away by teammate Ethan Dobbelaere.
“It’s just instinct,” Roldan said. “When he (keeper Stefan Frei) is off his goal line, I try to go back there and give a little bit of security for him. They were able to get a header on in and Stef wasn’t in position to make the save. Luckily I was able to get a head on it and kept the game tied going into the half.”
Dobbelaere, who’s 17, and Joevin Jones received the start on the wings for Cristian and Morris. Dobbelaere was aggressive and had a possible goal denied by an apparent handball that wasn’t called in the seventh minute. Jones had a shot on-target in the 49th minute.
The match Wednesday against the Galaxy was rescheduled from August when both sides participated in a strike among pro sports in support of Black Lives Matter protests in Wisconsin.
Los Angeles was under new leadership. Guillermo Barros Schelotto was fired last week and Dominic Kinnear was named interim coach for the remainder of the 2020 season. L.A. (6-11-4) has performed poorly but entered the match Wednesday with an outside chance to get a playoff bid. The draw with Seattle ended those playoff chances for the Galaxy.
The Sounders (10-5-6) close the regular season Sunday with a match against the San Jose Earthquakes at CenturyLink Field. The Portland Timbers lost to Colorado, giving the Sounders a chance to win the Western Conference and home-field advantage.
The Sounders entered the break scoreless with the Galaxy. Seattle didn’t have a single shot on-goal and was outshot 6-4 by L.A. overall in the half.
Yeimar Gomez Andrade didn’t start in the back, Schmetzer going with Xavier Arreaga and Shane O’Neill. Also available as a substitute was Jimmy Medranda, a trade pickup from Nashville SC.
“Everybody says it’s a positive because at the very end there, we stole a point,” Schmetzer said. “My opinion is that game has to hurt. We’re the defending champions of this league. We should come down here and win these types of games.”