CARSON — Dejan Joveljić has thrived in the late-game, super-sub role for the Galaxy this season.
Saturday, he actually came on in the first half, but the late goal-scoring heroics continued as he headed in the tying goal in the 88th minute to help the Galaxy (7-5-3, 24 points) steal a point in a 1-1 draw against the Portland Timbers Saturday at Dignity Healthla Sports Park in front of 21,414.
“The cross was excellent,” Joveljić said.
That assist came from defender Julian Araujo as the Galaxy pushed for the equalizing goal. Araujo had time on the ball and sent the perfect into Joveljić.
“When Kelvin (Leerdam) gave me the ball, all I was thinking was to cross it,” Araujo said. “I saw that there was a gap at the front post and I was just hoping that Dejan would get there.
“Anything you give to him, he’s going to put away, so even training, he’s finishing, he’s doing what he does and that’s why he’s getting his time.”
The goal is the fourth this season for Joveljić in MLS competition. He also has three goals in U.S. Open Cup competition. The Galaxy will resume Open Cup play Tuesday against Sacramento Republic FC.
The question facing Galaxy coach Greg Vanney this season and especially during Joveljić’s scoring streak has been whether or not he and Chicharito Hernandez can co-exist on the same field. Joveljić replaced Victor Vazquez in the 32nd minute and that forced a formation switch into a 3-5-2 with two forwards (Joveljić and Herandez). The Galaxy normally play in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Hernandez the lone forward.
“The reason I did it was to give it more minutes and let’s see over a longer stretch of time how we manage the midfield, how we defend when we have two on, how we possess the ball and still play through our principles,” Vanney said of Joveljić-Hernandez pairing. “If we do it for 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there, sometimes, you don’t get as big a look at what actually it brings to the table, so in the end, we found a solution.”
The Galaxy looked like a team that had its good run interrupted by the international break. The pace, timing and execution was out of sync throughout the first 45 minutes. Unfortunately, Portland needed just one chance, a counter-attack the finished with Yimmi Chara slotting a ball by Jonathan Bond for a 1-0 lead.
“The first half was difficult for us, definitely very, very bad for us, there’s no excuses on that part,” Araujo said. “We came into the locker room, we knew we had 45 minutes to go. They had a goal, but we came back against Austin (FC) and that was our mentality.
“Last year, we didn’t have many of those ….we have a different mentality this year, so we stayed positive.”
The Galaxy could have put the game away earlier. On two separate occasions, the Galaxy had shouts for penalty kicks, but both were denied by the Video Assistant Referee. In the first half, Vazquez looked to his feet tangled with a Portland defender and went to the ground and in the second half, Samuel Grandsir sprinted through three defenders, appeared to get tripped by Portland’s Larrys Mabiala, but no penalty was given and in fact, Grandsir was given a yellow card for Simulation.
After scoring the tying goal, Joveljić also received a yellow card for taking his shirt off. That’s his third yellow card of the season, each time after scoring, something he said he has to stop doing.
“This is my last time,” he said with a laugh.