By Tim Peterson
(Carson) – On a night when the Galaxy unveiled a statue of the legendary David Beckham and inducted him into the Club’s Ring of Honor and remembered the late great Coach Sigi Schmid it was important that they got the victory to kick off the 2019 season. It didn’t come easy but it did eventually come as the Galaxy got a late goal from Zlatan Ibrahimovic to beat the Chicago Fire 2-1 Saturday night before a sold out crowd of 25,866 at Dignity Health Sports Park.
It was a successful debut for new head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto and also was his first ever win as an MLS head coach.
The Galaxy unveiled Beckham’s statue prior to the game and he also addressed the fans from the field at halftime. Schmid, who led the Galaxy to an MLS title as a coach before a second stint as coach with the club ended last year, passed away last December. He was remembered before the game. Then after all that it was on to business.
It took the Galaxy 67 minutes before they finally got on the board on a goal by Daniel Steres. Ibrahimovic’s goal 13 minutes later on a header of a rebound shot proved to be the game winner.
LA had its opportunities early but couldn’t cash in.
Rolf Feltscher had the first opportunity for the Galaxy but his header sailed high over the net in the fourth minute.
Two minutes later David Bingham saved a goal for LA on a shot by Przemyslaw Frankowski. Frankowski also fired one across the field in the front of the net in the eighth minute but came up empty.
In the 11th minute Uriel Antuna’s kick on goal was poked away by Chicago goalkeeper David Ousted. Romain Alessandrini tried to break the tie when he fired one at Ousted from the right corner but he was denied in the 15th minute.
Just a moment later, Alessandrini’s header was again saved by Ousted.
In the 20th minute Emmanuel Boateng had to replace Alessandrini who injured his right hamstring.
Bingham came up big again in the 26th on a blast by Aleksandar Katai. Boateng’s shot on the run from the right side failed as it was punched away by Ousted.
In the 45th minute Boateng was flattened by Marcelo and it resulted in a penalty kick but Boateng’s boot was wide left. Four minutes of additional time was added.
The first half ended in a scoreless tie.
Beckham then spoke and received a rousing ovation from the capacity crowd and it was on to the second half.
The Fire had eight total shots compared to six for the Galaxy in the first half. Three of Chicago’s shots were on target compared to two for LA.
With the Galaxy still sitting on zero it was Chicago that broke through first in the 49th minute on a blunder by the Galaxy. Diego Polenta’s back pass intended for Bingham never got there and left Bingham in a bad position. C.J. Sapong caught up to it and beat him for the score to give the Fire a 1-0 lead.
16 year old Efrain Alvarez made his MLS debut as he entered the game in the 59th minute. In the 67th he made an impact with a great cross to Daniel Steres in the box who headed it in for the game tying goal.
Ibrahimovic almost put the Galaxy up four minutes later as he tried to hit the ball off of his chest into the net but Ousted made an improbable save to knock it away.
In the 80th minute he indeed did put the Galaxy up as he headed in a rebound of off a shot by Chris Pontius. Pontius’ shot hit the cross bar and bounced to Ibrahimovic who rammed it home.
The Galaxy held on the rest of the way. Three minutes of additional time was added at the end of regulation but Chicago couldn’t muster another goal.
The Fire ended up with more shots than the Galaxy, 17-13 and had possession of the ball 13 percent longer than LA also. But the Galaxy won in the only stat that matters with one more goal.
“He plays like a someone that is 22 or 23,” said Schelotto of Alvarez. “I have trust in him. He’s a good player.”
Alvarez, along with Ibrahimovic, Steres and over 25,000 fans made Schelotto’s debut a success.
Next up for the Galaxy is a road trip to Texas to face FC Dallas next Saturday night.