Galaxy's lineup shifts fall flat in defeat at Sounders
Faced with a midweek match for the first time since mid-March, LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena opted to shake up the starting lineup ahead of Wednesday's match in Seattle.
The veteran head coach left some starters behind and had others start the match on the bench as a makeshift Galaxy squad hit the CenturyLink Field turf against the Sounders on Tuesday.
Suffice to say, the gamble didn't work.
The Galaxy lost 2-0 and saw their modest three-match unbeaten streak disappear in the process. The lineup did not include the likes of David Beckham or Robbie Keane and was mostly punchless as a result.
"I think it's a difficult week with the travel and playing on this surface," Arena said. "We wanted to keep some players fresh for the game on Saturday [vs. New York]. That's the decision I made. We didn't think we were going to be able to play 11 players in three games and we had to rotate some players. It made sense to me to have those players available on Saturday."
The lineup featured the return of Marcelo Sarvas, who did not start any of the Galaxy's games in April, as well as debutant Bryan Gaul at left back. Also, Adam Cristman got his first start just days after playing his first game of the season in a 1-1 draw with FC Dallas.
A year ago, no matter who filled in at what position, it seemed that the club found success regardless. While the pieces were in place for a similar outcome on Wednesday, it didn't happen.
"Historically, we've done well here with a mix of lineups and personnel," Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. "We had a chance at the beginning of halftime to get something out of the game.
"That being said, this is a long season with a number of older players who have played a lot of games. When you combine the turf and traveling home it becomes pretty difficult. Those are the decisions that were made. We had enough guys here to get the job done, we just couldn't do it."
Further highlighting LA's dearth of first-choice players, backup goalkeeper Bill Gaudette started in goal for the second time in five days. Gaudette made his Galaxy debut last Saturday, a day after the club learned Josh Saunders would be unavailable for at least the short term.
WATCH: Gaudette makes double save
Gaudette was able to help the Galaxy pull out a draw against FC Dallas on the weekend and did his best early on Wednesday, making a pair of dazzling saves, stopping Eddie Johnson from close range, and then turning away Fredy Montero on the rebound.
But Seattle broke through eventually. First, Johnson powered a header into the back of the net in the 40th minute, then Montero struck a laser from long range to put the game on ice just three minutes into the second half.
It was difficult to find a hole in Gaudette's performance Wednesday, according to Arena.
"I thought he did well," the manager said. "The second goal was a tremendous goal and we didn't do a good job marking on the first goal, give them credit for getting it."
Montero's goal dazzled the crowd and gave the hosts some momentum. While Gaudette dived to try and turn him away, the only thing he could do afterward was to admire his counterpart.
"He is a good player," Gaudette said of Seattle's star. "Any time you give goalscorers the opportunity to strike the ball ... he did it well. As a 'keeper, I feel like I can get everything, I'd like to have it back just so I could try again. Heck of a goal — good spot and good placement ... same with [Eddie Johnson's goal]; any time you give someone time in the box, they're going to score goals."
The Galaxy failed to respond and, futhermore, failed to score for the second time this season. The performance was not awful, Donovan said, but it was also not enough to escape with a result.
"I thought overall we were OK," he said. "We did enough to put them under pressure to score goals. The goal before the half took some momentum away then the goal after the half really saps you. Disappointing night, but we have to move on."
Postgame Interview: Bryan Gaul
Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.