NEW YORK — There may be some days this season when the LA Galaxy can win a match with only one Dos Santos brother, but Sunday's trip to Yankee Stadium, against a strong New York City FC squad, wasn't going to be one.
Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos started for the Galaxy, but Gio was largely invisible for the better part of 45 minutes before leaving the match at halftime with an injury. His brother took over playmaking duties for the Galaxy, and helped them claw back into the match by scoring a nifty goal before the visitors ultimately fell short.
NYCFC wasted little time imposing its will, opening the scoring in the 22nd minute on an Anton Tinnerholm blast. The home side controlled the flow of play, holding 61 percent of the possession and outshooting the Galaxy 20-7.
The Galaxy's task was made even tougher by Giovani dos Santos' ineffectiveness, which appeared to be caused by a right hamstring injury he suffered on an Alexander Ring foul midway through the first half. Dos Santos played through the knock before coming up lame seven minutes later while trying to race onto a ball in the penalty area.
Dos Santos decide to continue playing, even though the injury was keeping him from sprinting, shooting and passing effectively. In the 33rd minute, Dos Santos winced in considerable pain while striking a long free kick, which was headed clear before sparking the NYCFC counterattack that resulted in David Villa's decisive goal.
After Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid replaced Giovani dos Santos with Servando Carrasco at halftime and shifted Jonathan dos Santos into his brother's playmaking role, the Galaxy turned the match into a real contest. Jonathan dos Santos' 60th-minute finish closed the gap, and while the Galaxy's comeback attempt fell short, Schmid liked what he saw from the 27-year-old in the playmaking role.
"We played him in Gio's role and he actually played very well in the second half in that role," Schmid said. "He's active, and he's busy. He makes those final runs as well. You know that might be a role that we have to look at as we move forward."
"I felt real good," Jonathan dos Santos said. "I've always been accustomed to playing a bit more advanced than the positions I normally play. I like playing there a lot. Certainly, when I'm playing deeper, I like playing more alone, and I like to have control of the game. In the end, I'm very comfortable playing with Perry (Kitchen), with Servando, and with Gio, who plays well up front when I'm behind him."
Giovani dos Santos declined interview requests after the match, and left the locker room walking gingerly. It remains unclear how serious his injury is, and whether it might keep him from joining the Mexican national team for its friendlies later in March.
"We really don't know right now the extent of the injury, so we'll have to see," Schmid said. "It's not something where we caught it late. I think we caught it pretty early and so we erred on the side of precaution by taking him out at halftime."
If Giovani dos Santos is forced to the sidelines for an extended period of time, then Sunday's match might wind up giving the Galaxy a blueprint for replacing his attacking contributions. If Jonathan dos Santos' second-half performance was any indication, he looks more than capable of filling the role.