CARSON, Calif. – Late game breakdowns have been a frustrating regularity for the LA Galaxy this season with the team conceding 15 goals in the final 15 minutes of matches—eight of those strikes coming in second half stoppage time.
But as LA looked to seal their 2-1 victory over Vancouver Whitecaps FC, they resorted to all tactics necessary to make sure that it would not happen on Saturday.
Whether it was Gyasi Zardes running the ball to the corner flag, second half substitute Laurent Courtois earning a break away before taking a sharp turn backward or the defense thumping the ball forward at any and all opportunities, LA dipped into whatever shrewd method that they could think of to preserve the three points.
Even after the task was complete, head coach Bruce Arena wasn’t looking to toot his team’s horn, he knows that they were simply just doing their job.
“Everyone knows what you have to do at the end of the game, but you just have to do it,” said Arena. “It wasn’t perfect; a better performance is getting a third goal, and really placing Vancouver in a difficult position. We let them hang around, which is a lesson to be learned as well. I thought for the most part our guys played well and certainly in the last 15 minutes and keeping Vancouver off the scoreboard was important.”
LA’s efforts to close out the ‘Caps truly began in earnest in the 73rd minute when goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini provided a kick save to deny Vancouver’s Kenny Miller from close range. From there the Galaxy resorted to every trick in the handbook to end the match eventually ending the game with 38 clearances—11 of which came in the final 15 minutes of the game, and allowing just one attempt at goal in the final 15 minutes plus stoppage time.
“We were just telling guys to play it smart, take it to the corner, and if you do have an open look then take it, but it may be smarter to just take it to the corner,” said center back Omar Gonzalez, who captained the side on the night. “Guys did really well up top just to kill the game off and it was just a great win. I think that we really dominated.”
Despite closing out the match and earning the victory, the Galaxy defense was unanimous in their belief that the job is far from done.
In particular, they highlighted a Vancouver corner kick in the third minute of stoppage time when the presence of Whitecaps second half substitute Tommy Heinemann in the penalty area caused some confusion for the Galaxy backline. However, unlike their past mistakes, LA was able to mark the target forward and clear out the danger.
“Their tallest guy was wide open for quite a while so we still have to sort it out. Someone has to mark [in that situation],” said defender A.J. DeLaGarza. “We have to mark and thankfully, they [were not able to make us pay].”
With the victory, the Galaxy find themselves once again just four points behind Supporters’ Shield leaders Real Salt Lake, however, rather than glance at their place in the standings, LA are not thinking too far ahead.
“[The standings are] so tight and we know that. We’re not thinking too far down the line at this point,” said defender Todd Dunivant. “Let’s not get too high when we win and not too low when we lose.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com