Galaxy claim another home win with 1-0 defeat of Earthquakes

LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond makes a save against Austin FC on May 15, 2021, at Dignity Health Sports Park.
Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond, shown making a save against Austin FC on May 15, had a career-high 12 on Saturday in a 1-0 win over the Earthquakes. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Part of Greg Vanney’s plan to return the Galaxy to prominence involves making Dignity Health Sports Park an unwelcome place for visitors.

That’s a proven formula in MLS, where the last four Supporters’ Shield winners have all finished with the season’s best home record. But it’s also a pretty good indicator of the Galaxy’s fortunes: When the team was winning three MLS Cups in four seasons at the start of the last decade, it averaged more than 11 wins at home and led the league in home victories three times.

In the last four seasons, three of which ended short of the playoffs, the Galaxy had losing records at home twice and were just two games over .500 overall.

It’s too early to say how those numbers will add up this season, but the early results are encouraging, with Saturday’s 1-0 victory giving the Galaxy a Western Conference-best four wins in as many tries at home, lifting them into second place in the standings.

“We want this to be a place when people come here, they’ve already sort of lost,” said Vanney, whose team got the only goal it needed on a pass that ricocheted in off a defender. “We want this to be our fortress. And we want teams to feel like it’s going to be really, really difficult to get points anytime they get on a plane to come play the Galaxy.”

It also helps if the fortress has a really good gatekeeper to repel invaders and the Galaxy certainly have that in goalkeeper Jonathan Bond, who made 12 saves Saturday in posting his second straight shutout at Dignity Health Sports Park, a place he’s already beginning to feel at home.

“It’s a nice feeling when you’re looking forward to playing in front of your own fans,” said Bond, who has stopped a league-leading 40 shots seven games into his MLS career.

“Maybe there is something to feeling more comfortable at home. But that’s not a bad thing.”

Although the Galaxy (5-2-0) took a season-high 21 shots, they were frustrated for most of the afternoon with Daniel Steres bouncing a header off the crossbar, Quakes defender Tanner Beason sliding in to clear a Kévin Cabral shot off the line and Javier “Chicharito” Hernández sending another header right into the midsection of San Jose keeper JT Marcinkowski for one of his six saves.

Then eight minutes into the second half, captain Jonathan dos Santos limped off the pitch with a calf injury.

But the Galaxy didn’t let up and they were rewarded for that perseverance in the 70th minute when second-half substitute Samuel Grandsir tried to send a cross from the right wing to Hernández in the middle of the penalty area, only to have the ball deflect off Beason’s left foot and over the line for an own goal.

“We’ll take it,” Vanney said of the lucky strike. “It’s a sign of a good team who’s finding ways to take points — especially in stretches of games when it’s not going the way we wanted it to go.”

Winning at home will be important in continuing that momentum since road teams were losing more than three-quarters of the time in MLS entering the weekend, a partial result of league-mandated same-day travel that has made some road trips arduous 17-hour slogs.

The Galaxy aren’t immune to that. In their four home wins they’ve outscored opponents 8-3, posting two shutouts. On the road, they’ve lost two of three games and the goal differential is reversed.

“It is really important to win at home,” said Bond, who hasn’t allowed a goal in his last 208 minutes at Dignity Health Sports Park. . “You can’t really achieve anything if you’re not strong at home and people don’t look forward to coming to play you.”

That home-field advantage could grow when the Galaxy return from the league’s three-week international break next month. The team averaged just more than 7,000 socially distanced fans through its first four home games but will reopen its nearly 26,000-seat venue to capacity for its next game June 19.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.