CARSON, Calif. – Scoring first is one of the principle tenets of soccer and if you take a look at the LA Galaxy’s record when finding the first goal, you can see why.
When LA finds the back of the net first they are unbeaten with conceding the first goal in MLS play with a record of 6-0-2. Expand that number to include all competitions and LA is 7-1-2 when scoring first. However, when the Galaxy concedes first they are 0-7-0 in all competitions and 0-5-0 in MLS play.
It is easy to claim that the Galaxy must show more composure when falling behind, but LA head coach Bruce Arena doesn’t believe it is that simple.
“Most teams that go down a goal in soccer lose. It’s almost like 80 percent of the time. It’s a low scoring sport, so that happens. It’s not basketball…a goal is important in this game. Two goals are really important,” said Arena. “It’s not necessarily [about] composure, it’s just making plays, but when you go down 1-0, you can’t go down 2-0. It’s part of the way of turning it around.”
The statistics back up Arena’s claim as nine of the 19 MLS teams have picked up a win when going down a goal and just one –the Eastern Conference league-leading Montreal Impact at 2-2-0—have at least a .500 record. LA are also one of four teams (Seattle Sounders FC, Colorado Rapids, New England Revolution being the others) who have failed to pick up at least one point when falling behind first.
This issue may stretch league-wide, but if things don’t go LA’s way from the start then they must show more fortitude.
“It’s not just this team. It’s this league. When you’re down, the teams don’t find a way to lose position and give up space to attack. With our team, these things happen,” said midfielder Marcelo Sarvas. “Every time when we were our down, we don’t find the right way to go up and score. We give up too much space and players are running out of position. Sometimes, you try to decide the game by yourself. You have to keep playing, 1-0, you have to keep playing the same as if it was 0-0.”
New England vs LA
The perfect case study for this came during LA’s 5-0 defeat to the New England Revolution last Sunday. The Galaxy controlled the match for wide stretches despite going down in the 33rd minute, but fell apart after conceding the second goal in the 71st minute, which was marred by a disagreement by referee Fotis Bazakos and assistant referee Adam Garner on the free kick that led to the goal.
After that goal, LA pushed forward with the hopes of cutting the Revolution’s lead to one, but were cut apart in the last three minutes plus stoppage time when New England stretched the final score to 5-0.
“I feel like we put our heads this down when the second goal came in and that’s the wrong reaction to have as a team. Us being the Galaxy, the defending back-to-back champions, we should not be allowing that to happen,” said forward Jose Villarreal. “If we’re down 2-0 then we have to look for a way to tie the game or even win it. It was just a bad reaction from us and we need to work on it.”
The statistics may not be flattering when LA goes down, but associate head coach Dave Sarachan is adamant that the Galaxy do have the team that can fight back, but it won’t be easy.
“Clearly, a blatant example of how we didn’t do it was in New England because I think we lost our focus and lost our shape and our composure after the second goal was scored. That’s something that we can correct,” said Sarachan. “Now going into these [remaining games this season], if we get behind then we keep our composure, we keep our shape, and have the confidence that we will create and get chances. I think that will bear out as we get deeper into the summer and into the fall.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com