COLUMBUS, Ohio – In the words of LA Galaxy captain Robbie Keane, the Galaxy received a firm “kick up the back side” after suffering their worst loss of the MLS season in a 4-1 defeat to the Columbus Crew on Saturday.
The loss was the highest margin of defeat in a regular season match for the Galaxy in more than a year since their disappointing 5-0 capitulation to the New England Revolution last June. Much like that crushing performance against the Revs, the goals came late for Columbus who scored two in the last 15 minutes to run up the score against the visitors.
Despite numerous opportunities to pull ahead at the start and then pull level after Gyasi Zardes’ goal in the 49th minute, LA were left frustrated after dropping just their second loss in their last 12 games.
"Bad performance all around," Keane said after the defeat "I think they were the better team throughout the game. They controlled most of the game. Our best play was the first 15 minutes of the second half, but after that they got control and they never really looked like they were going to lose.
“Sometimes you just have to hold your hands up and give the other team credit,” he added. “And we have to give them credit tonight.”
From the opening whistle, Crew head coach and ex-Galaxy defender Gregg Berhalter took a page from his former club as he pressed LA in their own defensive end and sought to counter when the Galaxy lost the ball. With playmaker Federico Higuain pulling the strings, Columbus created plenty of chances before pulling ahead after 23 minutes through a Justin Meram strike.
Despite the early goal, the match remained extremely open with the Galaxy forcing Columbus goalkeeper Steve Clark into action numerous times. While the LA attack failed to capitalize on their opportunities–ending the evening with 17 scoring attempts—the Crew were able to cash in, as Ethan Finlay scored the game-winner for Columbus in the 33th minute.
“In the first half, they clearly outplayed us and their passing and finishing was better on the night. There were a lot of goals for us tonight, but our passing and finishing was poor,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. “We had opportunities to do a better job getting around the goal and we didn't do it. A lot of the basics, we got beat on tonight."
The Galaxy attempted to counter the Crew’s numbers in midfield after Robbie Rogers went down with a quadriceps injury in the 64th minute by switching to three at the back. Although the move helped the Galaxy account for Columbus’ advantage in the center of the park, the Crew’s ability to pass into space kept up the pressure, eventually resulting in goals by Ben Speas and Giancarlo Gonzalez to seal the defeat for the visitors.
“They played the way that we played when we were in Seattle,” said defender A.J. DeLaGarza. “We were all over Seattle and they were all over us [on Saturday]. It’s a mentality and they just came out quickly and played a great game.”