Tommy Meyer in action for the LA Galaxy in Tuesday's preseason game against the Montreal Impact. Photo credit: LAGConfidential
In 2012, the LA Galaxy have played four preseason games, but only have one win. Not exactly how you'd expect the reigning MLS Cup Champions to fare in these matches. But before we all hit the collective panic button, let's take a deep breath and assess the situation.
Today's game against the newest addition to MLS, the Montreal Impact, was a tough one to watch for the Galaxy fans in attendance, especially in the first half.
The back four, Todd Dunivant, AJ DeLaGarza, Tommy Meyer and Bryan Jordan, weren't nearly as in sync as the 2011 Galaxy defense. With Omar Gonzalez out for most of the 2012 season, Meyer is expected to fill his very big shoes, and DeLaGarza has been thrust into a leadership role in the back line.
Filling the hole that Gonzalez's absence leaves is arguably the biggest concern for the LA this season, and it was made very clear today that there are a lot of kinks that still need to be worked out.
The left side of the Galaxy's defense, with DeLaGarza and Dunivant, was solid as ever; it was the right side that was the weak point today, and Montreal exploited that relentlessly. Jordan and Meyer faced wave after wave of attacks from the Impact's offense, and in the 37th minute, they capitalized. Sanna Nyassi beat Meyer down the flank, cut back towards goal and fired a shot. Nyassi's shot deflected off of Jordan, and goalkeeper Josh Saunders couldn't redirect his dive in time, and watched the ball bounce into the back of the net. It would stay 1-0 Montreal until halftime.
In the midfield, David Beckham did his best to hold down the fort as Kyle Nakazawa, Marcelo Sarvas and Michael Stephens didn't provide much help. The best chance for LA in the first half--actually, the only chance--came from a Beckham free kick. He bent the ball almost perfectly, beating Montreal keeper Donovan Ricketts, but the crossbar robbed him of a beautiful goal.
Aside from that shot, the midfielders didn't attack Montreal at all. Nakazawa was almost non-existent on the left wing, Stephens gave the ball away several times on the right, and Sarvas seemed lost in the middle. There has been a lot of chatter about Sarvas, and how he is similar to Juninho as a player. He showed some of that today, especially aggression and strength when he challenged Montreal players for the ball.
But Sarvas often seemed out of position, and faded into the background. Saunders was constantly yelling at him, telling him to drop here or push forward there. Aside from positioning, he also had a few bad giveaways and weak passes. It will take some time for Sarvas to fit into the equation, and with Juninho back, I'm not sure what role he will play in the Galaxy midfield.
On the attacking end, Edson Buddle and Paolo Cardozo did not link up well together on the front line. The few times the ball made it through the midfield to the final third, the play was quickly neutralized by either a bad pass or give away.
In the second half, Bruce Arena substituted almost the entire lineup. Surprisingly, the subs showed more fluid play than the starters. Adam Cristman and Jack McBean played together up top, and actually strung a few good plays together. McBean was robbed by a superb point-blank save from Ricketts.
An unexpected change came early in the second half, when Jordan came up limping after a clash with a Montreal player. He was replaced by Justin Davies, who had a great second half at right back, far outplaying Jordan's first half efforts.
Montreal notched another goal in the 51st minute, with a great shot from Zarek Valentin beating Galaxy keeper Nick Noble, who came on for Saunders at halftime. Montreal was up 2-0, and it was clear that LA defenders were getting frustrated. Nyassi was cutting up the defense, creating tons of space and testing DeLaGarza and Meyer. They worked together better in the second half, but still have a long way to go. Without DeLaGarza locking down the middle of the defense the whole game, the scoreline would have been much worse.
Montreal added one more goal before the final whistle, when Evan James tapped in a cross from Migual Montaño in stoppage time. The game ended in a 3-0 victory for the Impact, who handed the Galaxy their third preseason loss.
Most of the results so far seem rather negative: the only preseason win for the Galaxy was against the LA Blues, with all their losses coming from games with other MLS teams. Saunders has let in four goals in four games, and the defense isn't gelling yet. The midfield is a bit of a mess, and the forwards aren't creating chances.
Here's what we have to remember: Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane are still away in Europe on loan. Once they return--Donovan will be back this weekend--and Juninho comes back to LA, the middle of the field and the front line will look very different. Defensively, DeLaGarza and Meyer have the potential to be a great team, they just need more time to form a cohesive unit.
Oh, and don't forget: it's still just preseason. This is when the flaws are supposed to be worked out. So hold off on the panic button for a few more weeks, at least.