LA Galaxy determined not to let defensive mistakes beat them Thursday

Closing out games, stopping Oduro key for the Galaxy against Columbus

CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy suffered a major letdown against the San Jose Earthquakes last Saturday, but they’ll have the chance to right the ship on Thursday against a talented Columbus Crew side.

Last week, the increased pace of the game, instigated by San Jose’s desperate forays forward in the closing minutes, caused LA to get stretched out and concede two goals in stoppage time to drop a 3-2 result.  In the days following the defeat, LA players and coaches have admitted the team failed in these “frantic” moments, but they’ll have to deal with a Crew team on Thursday that will be looking to keep the heat on LA for a full 90 minutes.

Led by the fleet-footed Dominic Oduro and playmaker Federico Higuain, the Crew arrive at StubHub Center aiming to keep pace in the Eastern Conference as they sit just three points behind the Houston Dynamo for the fifth and final playoff berth. With the Galaxy desperate to turn the page from Saturday, the team is eager to get back on the field.

“It’s kind of nice that it’s a short turnaround because everyone is anxious to get back at it and out that game behind us. We gave a lesson in how not to close out a game and quite honestly, we did everything wrong and we lost because of it,” said defender Todd Dunivant. “It’s a good lesson. We learn those lessons the hard way last year and it was another one last week. We have to move forward.  Columbus is a massive game for us and it is three points that we have to have.”

It won’t be easy to get those three points, however, as the Crew will pose a tough test for the LA defense.

Higuain’s class and ability to find space behind defenses make him a threat each time he touches the ball, but Oduro, whom defender A.J. DeLaGarza labeled a “track star” represents a different type of challenge. The Ghanaian has a team-best eight goals to date this season and he has scored twice in his last four games. However, those goals have not translated into wins as Columbus has just one victory in that span.

 “It’s nothing that we haven’t faced. We’ve seen Darren Mattocks this season already, but Oduro is another type of speed,” said DeLaGarza. “He’s just another type of speed. He’s the fastest guy in the league. And this year, he’s been scoring goals because of his pace. He’s finally getting better at finishing those chances off. So with that pace and the way he’s finishing right now, he’s confident.”

Defensive organization is paramount when trying to stop a fast-paced attacker. Although it may seem likely, LA need to look no further than their first-half performance against the Earthquakes. During the first half, San Jose attempted to pressure the Galaxy defense high up the field while sending looping balls over the midfield and were caught offside seven times by LA.

With Oduro and company expected to try and use their pace to stretch the Galaxy defense, a similar tactic from LA could be helpful.

“We just have to stay organized. Not even for 90 or 90-plus, but 100 minutes,” said DeLaGarza. “We have to stay focused the entire game. Not giving up late when we think that we have a win. Something like a throw-in can change the game.”

Captain Robbie Keane was quick to take his teammates to task following Saturday’s defeat, but what does he want to see when the opening whistle sounds on Thursday?

“A reaction. A reaction from all the players, it’s important to bounce back as soon as possible due to the manner of the defeat. I’m looking for players to show some characters and show a bit of balls,” said Keane. “Of course, [we’re] pissed off losing the way that we did, but you have to get that pissed off and that anger on Thursday’s game.”

While the captain wants to see some vigor against Columbus, Dunivant added that even if they do show passion, they won’t get a result against the Crew—or anyone else for that matter—until they learn to close out games.

“The way that we’d like to react is with a lot of high pressure and a lot of confidence,” said Dunivant. “We had a great game against San Jose. We actually had a great 90 minutes, Bruce [Arena] joked earlier. We didn’t play the full 94 though. We have to keep building on those positives, come out strong again, and continue to get better.”

Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com