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.
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.