After Saturday’s 1-0 win over New England, LA Galaxy players and coaches had plenty of reasons to feel good about their performance.
The club nabbed three points in one game, three games earlier than one year ago. Edson Buddle scored his first goal of the season after scoring just five in 2009. And the club picked up a shutout victory, carrying on the tradition of tough defending set one year ago.
Yet Galaxy coach Bruce Arena wasn’t about to overlook the club’s setbacks. For all the positives the Galaxy had, the club almost canceled them out with their negatives.
“We’re certainly happy with the three points in the opening game,” Arena said after the match. “We struggled last year to get to three points. However our performance is certainly incomplete over the 90 minutes. We were sloppy in the first 10 minutes of the second half. I thought our passing could have been better throughout the night.
Scoring goals was a question mark coming into the season, and the club seemingly had answered that question early on. Buddle scored in the sixth minute, but for all the pressure the Galaxy put on the Revolution’s back line, the club never was able to add a second goal.
It’s not exactly something that caught players off guard. The Galaxy won six games last year by a 1-0 score, and had opportunities in those matches to pull away and win by a second goal.
“Same thing tonight,” Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said. “We definitely dominated the game but they had a couple of chances that they could have done better with and could have changed the whole game. We’ve got to have that killer instinct and put the game away.”
The Galaxy’s defense was a bright spot once again. Omar Gonzalez and Leonardo paired together in central defense and gave away little space for New England starting forwards Kheli Dube and Zack Schilawski to maneuver in. Dube did have two chances in a span of three minutes early in the second half.
“Overall it was certainly a solid performance,” Arena said. “We defended for the most part pretty well. We got a little sloppy on a couple of plays during the match ... and we were pretty sloppy in trying to finish them off with the second goal and we had our opportunities to do that in the first and second half. That part certainly was not good.”
Buddle had a few chances to score that he failed to put on frame, and one late attempt was parried away by New England goalkeeper Preston Burpo. Gonzalez saw a late header also knocked away by Burpo. Also, Landon Donovan had a breakaway late in the match and tried to find Alex Cazumba, but the ball got away from the reigning MLS MVP and the late scoring chance was wasted.
Cazumba had replaced an injured Eddie Lewis and played a left midfield role he’d only started to fill in the final week of the preseason. Still, Cazumba and fellow Brazilians Leonardo and Juninho all made their MLS debuts. While each displayed some strong qualities and drew praise from their teammates, there is one area in which the South Americans could improve on significantly.
“The biggest thing is going to be the communication barrier, especially the Brazilians,” said Donovan. “When you have three guys who don’t speak the language, it makes things difficult. When they’re able to speak the language it will make things easier for everyone.”
Still, for all of the talk of a second goal that never came, the Galaxy were able to get the first one rather quickly. Donovan swung a free kick from the left side of the field into the middle of the box, and Buddle powered a header into the back of the net.
Buddle scored 15 goals in 2008 but had just five a year ago, and seemingly set himself up for a good year with his early strike.
“Being familiar with the players around me, I was comfortable and we were able to find each other much easier,” Buddle said.
Bottom line, Dunivant said, was that three points after one game beats three points after four, as was the case last year.
“That game last year we probably tie, we probably get a draw out of it,” he said. “This is a good start and we build on it and we’ve got to get a killer instinct and put teams away when we have the opportunity.”