Jonathan dos Santos, 'Chicharito' Hernández lead Galaxy to earthshaking win over LAFC

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Jonathan dos Santos is shirtless as Galaxy teammate Javier Hernandez congratulates him on his goal May 8, 2021.
Jonathan dos Santos is congratulated by Galaxy teammate Javier "Chicharito" Hernández after Dos Santos scored a go-ahead goal in the 79th minute Saturday in a 2-1 win over LAFC. (John McCoy / Getty Images)

Saturday’s El Tráfico between the Galaxy and LAFC lost most of its luster when LAFC’s Carlos Vela was scratched shortly before kickoff, robbing it of an anticipated showdown between Vela and World Cup teammate Javier “Chicharito” Hernández.

But that took little of the drama away from a game that ended with the ground literally shaking, with a magnitude 3.7 earthquake in stoppage time punctuating a 2-1 Galaxy win before a crowd limited to 7,193 at Dignity Health Sports Park.

And it was Jonathan dos Santos, another member of that Mexican World Cup team, who started that rocking, scoring the game-winning goal in the 79th minute. The stadium was still bouncing 10 minutes later when the ground beneath it joined in, shaking everything including the MLS standings, which show the Galaxy tied for the Western Conference lead for the first time in nearly two years.

“They earned it by just their work rate, their commitment, sticking to it,” Galaxy coach Greg Vanney said of his team. “The character that they have to compete for these games, we’re going to continue to get better as a team. If we can carry this along with us, we’re going to have a really good group that’s going to be very, very tough to beat.”

Hernández and Dos Santos, both rebounding from career-worst seasons, are leading that change, combining on both goals Saturday for a team that, at 3-1-0, is already halfway to last season’s win total.

Hernández got the first early in the first half, his sixth score of the season tripling his total output from his disappointing MLS debut season. Diego Rossi pulled LAFC even early in the second half, but Dos Santos erased that 17 minutes later with his first regular-season score in 22 months. And it came off a pass Hernández slipped through the legs of LAFC defender Tristan Blackmon for his first MLS assist.

When the ball hit the back of the net, Dos Santos ripped his shirt off and sprinted toward the grandstands, where he was welcomed by fans and engulfed by teammates.

The Galaxy celebrate after Javier "Chicharito" Hernández scored in the 11th minute May 8, 2021.
The Galaxy celebrate after Javier "Chicharito" Hernández scored in the 11th minute Saturday. (John McCoy / Getty Images)

“I don’t have words. I won’t forget this game,” he said in Spanish. “I really needed this goal for all the effort I’m putting in to be back to my best.”

For goalkeeper Jonathan Bond, the win was less a signature victory than it was another step on a much longer path.

“We’re trying to establish a style or way of playing,” said Bond, who made four saves and leads MLS with 20 through four games. “We are a new team with lots of new players trying to jell. But in that learning process, we’re grinding out results. And we’ve done it in different ways.”

Galaxy goalie Jonathan Bond stops a shot by LAFC's Diego Rossi in the first half May 8, 2021.
Galaxy goalie Jonathan Bond stops a shot by LAFC's Diego Rossi in the first half. Rossi scored in the 62nd minute for his team's only goal. (John McCoy / Getty Images)

If the Galaxy are adapting to a new coach and a new culture, LAFC (1-1-2) is still struggling to adapt to life without Vela. The first major signing in franchise history, Vela broke the MLS single-season scoring record in an MVP season in 2019. But he has started just five regular-season games since, playing only 22 minutes this season because of a quadriceps injury.

“We know how important he is to us. But we also know that we’re a good team when we really push games and when guys are fully committed,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said. “We’ve got to find the right way to move Carlos back into it.”

In the meantime, the team’s offense has sputtered, scoring just five times in four games and putting only five shots on target Saturday. Not exactly earth-shaking numbers but certainly not what LAFC has gotten used to in its first three seasons when no team in MLS had more regular-season wins, points or goals.

Speaking of earthshaking, Bond, still new to Southern California, considered Saturday’s temblor just another part of the Galaxy’s victory celebration.

“Was there an earthquake?” he asked afterward. “I was sprinting around for most of [it].”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.