CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy thought they'd done enough Saturday night to claim a point in their Western Conference showdown with Colorado, and, if not for one brilliant shot near the finish, they likely would have escaped with a draw.
But the foundation of the Galaxy's 1-0 defeat at the StubHub Center was their missing men, especially those up front, and it spurred head coach Bruce Arena to blast MLS' decision to play on during international fixture dates.
The Galaxy were missing four key players – Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan up front, Omar Gonzalez in central defense and Jaime Penedo in the nets, all away on World Cup qualifying duty – and if their defense did just fine with fill-ins, their attack was toothless.
“It's ridiculous we have to play these games in these windows,” Arena said in his postgame news conference. “We have such a congested schedule. I don't think we've played Colorado yet this year with our [full] team, which is ridiculous.
“You know, you're in playoff races, and I think every time – I don't know if every time is a fixture window, but for whatever reason, we've not played them yet with our full team.”
All three meetings have come during international play, and the Rapids were without their DP, too – forward Gabriel Torres is Penedo's Panama teammate – on Saturday. The visitors found little success against a Galaxy defense that looked steady with rookie Kofi Opare in Gonzalez's spot and Brian Rowe in Penedo's.
Edson Buddle's 75th-minute rocket to the upper-left corner, after Vicente Sanchez stripped the ball from Todd Dunivant, was unstoppable, but the Galaxy had few complaints about their defensive work.
“We didn't give them many chances throughout the entire night, except the one play,” right back AJ DeLaGarza said. “You look at that, it's a positive, I guess. On the other side of the ball, we didn't create any chances, so you've got to look at that, too.”
LA did create some chances – Sarvas hit the underside of the crossbar in the 34th minute and forced a leaping Clint Irwin save three minutes after Buddle's goal, and McBean had two dangerous close-range shots – but everything else was either off-target or right at Irwin.
“An OK performance, certainly not dangerous enough,” Arena said, assessing Villarreal and McBean's play. “Between them, probably not enough chances.”
It's nearly impossible to approximate what Donovan and Keane provide.
“They're always able to sort it out. So much experience, they figure it out no matter what, get those goals,” Rowe said. “We did well getting forward, we had those sort of half-opportunities, but in the end it's one of those games where you've either got to close it out, get the draw, or try to sneak one in to get the three points.”