Greg Vanney was the last man to reach the Galaxy bench before Tuesday’s game with the Colorado Rapids. And when he got there, he found Rapids coach Robin Fraser waiting for him.
The two old friends turned foes hardly needed an introduction.
Fraser was drafted fourth overall by the Galaxy in the inaugural MLS player draft, Vanney was taken 17th in the first college draft. They spent the next five years playing side-by-side on the team’s back line.
When Fraser was named manager of Chivas USA in 2011, he made Vanney his top assistant. When Vanney was named manager at Toronto, he made Fraser his top assistant.
“As a young player, I just shut up and listened and I tried to take in information,” Vanney said of Fraser. “He was always a cerebral player, always a hard-nosed player. Always very clear on what he wants in a moment and how he’s going to deal with situations.”
The former teammates, rarities in a league in which less than half the managers are former MLS players, were separated Tuesday by about 40 yards of grass along the west sideline at Dignity Health Sports Park. They ended the night even closer in the Western Conference standings, and Fraser helped make the difference, sending Andre Shinyashiki on in the 72nd minute, then watching him score the goal that gave Rapids to a 2-1 win less than a minute later, ending the Galaxy’s season-best four-game unbeaten streak.
Both teams are thriving under their new coaches. The Galaxy (11-7-2), who have made the playoffs just once since 2016, are third in the Western Conference standings in their first season under Vanney. Colorado (10-4-4), which made its only postseason appearance since 2016 last year in Fraser’s first full season, are one point back in fourth.
But it shouldn’t be that tight. The Galaxy, in the middle of a stretch that will see them play three times in seven days, dominated for long stretches Tuesday, building a huge lead in time of possession and outshooting Colorado 20-15. What it lacked, veteran midfielder Victor Vazquez said, was a winning mentality.
“We are a good team. We have to build this confidence,” said Vázquez, who won an MLS title under Vanney and Fraser in Toronto. “We are in the top three in the table. They have to respect us.
“We didn’t deserve to lose. But we have to take it.”
In addition to their mentality, the Galaxy also had their depth tested when forward Kévin Cabral was scratched with a low-grade hamstring strain before kickoff and defender Sega Coulibaly left with a possible concussion with four minutes remaining in a physical first half.
Cabral was the only player to score in the team’s last two games and with him joining a crowd of 15,101 in watching from the stands, the Galaxy fell behind for the first time since July 24 when Colorado’s Jonathan Lewis buried a penalty kick in the 13th minute.
Lewis drew the penalty after being toppled by a Rayan Raveloson hip check in the 18-yard box. Referee Silviu Petrescu originally called for a corner kick but correctly reversed himself and awarded the penalty after consulting a video replay.
Lewis nearly doubled the lead in the 20th minute when he rounded Galaxy keeper Jonathan Bond and poked a shot at the open net that defender Julian Araujo blocked, allowing Bond to scramble back and collect the loose ball. Raveloson then tied the score with a right-footed volley from the top of the penalty area in the 34th minute, the Galaxy’s first goal from outside the box this season.
But it was also the only goal the Galaxy would get on the night, marking the fourth straight game in which they scored just once.
“You are missing something when you don’t score more goals,” Vázquez said. “But it is what it is.
“We have to show more playing at home. I think we have one of the best teams — if not the best team — in MLS and we have to show it. That’s it. It’s about confidence.”
The Galaxy’s punchlessness allowed Fraser, with the clock ticking down, to make the move that helped win it for the Rapids, sending Shinyashiki on for Mark-Anthony Kaye. Seconds later a leaping Shinyashiki got his head to a corner kick, beating Bond at the far post to extend Colorado’s unbeaten streak against the Galaxy to five games dating to 2017.
“Goals change games and the timing of goals change the emotion sometimes,” Vanney said. “We have to develop this killer mentality, this winning mentality. We also have to eliminate the little mistakes that are super costly to us in giving up goals, but goals at bad times and goals in bad ways.
“Those are two big growing areas that I think we need to get to.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.