Galaxy have more questions than answers

Ahead of Saturday’s game against the Wizards, Mark Rogondino says the Galaxy need to get back t

Ricketts vs SJ

Photo Credit: 
Robert Mora

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In
my opinion, the Galaxy’s last solid performance came in the 3-1 win over the
Seattle Sounders on July 4.  Since that game,
LA has two wins in six matches, and one of those was hanging on against New York two weeks ago,
under serious pressure in the second half. 
Yes, I know a win is a win, but, this is not how the league’s best team—
statistically— should be playing, especially as they begin to prepare for the
postseason.

It
just isn’t.

And
if you are asking yourself what sort of form Bruce Arena’s squad should be on,
look no further than the first team to take three points from them this season,
Real Salt Lake.
The reigning MLS Cup champions are rapidly gaining ground on the Galaxy with
just one loss in their last 10 league games to close the gap to four points.

Looking
back at the past game in San Jose,
it is tough to not talk about the game’s lone goal four minutes into the
match.  Mistakes like that just cannot
happen at this level. 

From
my perspective Donovan Ricketts appeared to call A.J. DeLaGarza off the ball
hit into the box by Bobby Convey.  But
then Ricketts badly misplayed the ball allowing it to fall to the feet of Chris
Wondolowski for the side-footed finish into the net.  I am not sure if it was the skip off the
surface that fooled Ricketts or the angle he took to get to the ball, either
way it was a major error. 

That
goal forced the Galaxy to start chasing the game immediately and if you have
been following along all year, you know this team does not play well when it
needs to come from behind.  In fact of
the five games where the Galaxy have allowed the game’s opening goal this season,
four have ended in a loss and the other in a draw, a couple of weeks ago
against the Earthquakes at The Home Depot Center.  In contrast, LA is a perfect 13-0-0 when they
score the game’s first goal. 

It
doesn’t seem too hard to figure out. Score first and win. Allow the game’s
first goal and you don’t.

At
first glance, Kansas City coming to Southern California might be a welcome sight for LA.  The Wizards have not had the best fortune out
West, winning just four of the 23 games they’ve played against the Galaxy in MLS
regular season play at either The HDC or Rose Bowl.  In fact, you have to go back to 2004 to find
the last time K.C. beat LA away from home. 

That
same year, the Wizards, in their final season as a member of the Western
Conference, returned to Carson
only to narrowly miss out on a second MLS Cup championship, falling to D.C.
United, 3-2.

Fast
forward to the present though, and you will see this Kansas City team has been
playing well recently losing just once in their last six league outings and claiming
a 2-1 win in a friendly against Manchester United.  I know it was just a friendly and that the
Red Devils did not have all of the weapons out on the pitch.  But as I said above, “a win is a win.” 

The
positive from LA’s perspective is that the Wizards have just one win on the
road this season, although it did come against the Columbus Crew, who are only the
best team in the East and sit three points behind LA for the league’s best
record.

Former
Cal State Dominguez Hills striker Kei Kamara leads the Wizards in the attack
with eight goals so far this season.  But
it’s the one chance that he did not finish, the one that came against the
Galaxy back in late April, which has received the most attention. 

Google
“worst missed goal ever” and you will see Kamara’s name half-way down the
page.  Whether it was the worst miss ever
or not, that is up for interpretation. But what is not, is the fact that Kamara
can be dangerous from a number of different spots on the field.  A big, strong and physical player, Kamara is
great in the air and is very technical with the ball at his feet.  Helping add to the mix offensively for the
Wizards this year is former Arsenal youth product, Ryan Smith in his first
season with the club.  Smith leads K.C.
with eight assists this year.  Watching
him battle against Sean Franklin will be one of the better match-ups of the
night on Saturday.  Two very athletic
players going at each other for 90 minutes is always a treat.

At
the defensive end, Kansas City
and LA are quite similar.  Both sides
have good height in the middle and attacking option from the outside
backs.  As such, it is going to be
difficult for the Galaxy to win the ball on freekicks lofted into the box.  Center back Jimmy Conrad is one of the best
at defensive heading in MLS and he will pose a challenge for Edson Buddle, who will
again be faced with the difficult challenge of having a big and strong defender
on his back while trying to corral the ball in the final third of the
field.  This is certainly something the
league’s top scorer has become used to this season, but that does not make the
job any easier. 

It
will be interesting to see on LA’s side which player will win the second ball
after Buddle gets a body part to it. 
That will be one of the keys for the game, specifically in the final
third of the field.  Last week against San Jose, the Earthquakes
won, what felt like, 75 percent of second and loose balls.  That cannot happen again this week. Especially,
if the Galaxy want to get back to their winning ways.

And
isn’t that all that we really want? Because as I’ve said, a win is a win.

Quick Hits

Hats
off to the large group of Galaxy supporters from both the Riot Squad and Angel
City Brigade that made the bus trip up to the Bay Area for the game.  Even in defeat, it put a big smile on my face
to look out into the stadium and see those wearing the Galaxy colors holding
their own.

Landon
Donovan said after the game in New York that
he was finally starting to feel back to himself again following the whirlwind
summer he had in South
Africa. 
You can’t blame him given all of the travel the Galaxy captain went
through.  LA now needs him to get in the driver’s
seat and navigate the team back to its early season form.  He is the guy that needs to take control.

Sometimes
you don’t know how important certain guys are until you don’t have them in the
lineup.  I think that was the case with
both Gregg Berhalter and Todd Dunivant over the past couple of games.  That is not to take anything away from A.J.
DeLaGarza and Leonardo, but Berhalter does such a good job organizing the back
and allowing Omar Gonzalez to attack
any ball in the air, knowing he has the cover of the veteran in behind him,
while Dunivant does all the little things you would expect from a tenured
player in MLS.  With a likely return to
the lineup for Dunivant, we will see just how much of a difference the left back
can make.

Taking
care of business on your home field is usually a key to getting home field
advantage during the playoffs.  LA has
only one loss this season at home, but that was also the last time the Galaxy
played a league home game, a 3-2 loss to Chicago
on August 1.  Historically, the Galaxy
have a pretty good record under Bruce Arena in all competitions the next time
they take the field following a loss, losing only three times out of eleven
matches over the past two years.