Some would say that Omar Gonzalez’s curious choice to jump in the wall was the culprit as San Jose’s Victor Bernardez scored late last night against Los Angeles.
Others might suggest that Josh Saunders was more culpable; after all, even when Bernardez’s shot slipped through the Galaxy’s wall in stoppage time, it looked like something the Galaxy goalkeeper could have and should have smothered to preserve the draw.
It really was such a critical goal, because what was minutes away from becoming a “difficult” task for Los Angeles during Wednesday’s second leg in Northern California, now looks far more problematic. San Jose just needs a draw at home to advance and eliminate the champs – who aren’t looking very champ-like all of the sudden after their second consecutive contest at home that we can surely classify as “worryingly tame.”
So, back to the question; watch it and then meet me below the video:
(And no jokes about how referee Ricardo Salazar was most responsible for the goal, for whistling the foul in the first place; let’s stay on point for now.)
At the risk of fence-sitting accusations, I would split the difference right down the center on this one, citing each of the Galaxy men with game-day violations that fall somewhere between felony and misdemeanor level.
As for Gonzalez: at that distance, and with Bernardez taking such a long run-up, the danger here is a ball that squeezes through the wall or curves with menace around it. At closer distances, the tricky part for shooters is getting the ball “up and down” fast enough, with sufficient height to top the wall, but having the thing drop early enough so that it doesn’t hit the kid in the sixth row.
Which is why players jump, hopefully in unison, in the wall.
The other four men in L.A.’s wall last night understood this. (A good question to be asked: did someone in the wall actually say, “We aren’t jumping on this one. Everybody got it?”)
All that said, the ball did hit Gonzalez, removing much of the pace from Bernardez’s shot, which became a shot-lite as it slips through. Saunders, so reliable through most of the year, hasn’t been at his best lately. He darn sure wasn’t on this one.
He still has 20 yards to see the ball, one that arrives well within saving distance. That is, Saunders isn’t even at full stretch as he meets the dipping effort.
Besides, if you look at the difference-making goalkeeping in the other matches this weekend – Luis Robles having a good night for New York and “Super” Nick Rimando doing more than his share for Real Salt Lake – that is simply a moment the Galaxy goalkeeper has to own.
If Saunders stops that ball or plays it extra safe and pushes the thing wide, we’re all calling it a “good” stop – but probably not reaching much further in our big bag of adjectives.
So, split the blame 50-50 for me.