It was a known going in to Saturday's match between the LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes that it was going to be a shootout. Per Opta, the Earthquakes had been held scoreless just once in 16 (now 17) MLS matches, and the Galaxy had only managed two clean sheets all year. The Quakes, by scoring last night, made it 15 consecutive MLS matches that they've scored in.
On the other hand, the Galaxy are rolling on a historic offensive explosion. The last time this club scored three goals in two consecutive matches was June 2008, a span of 141 MLS matches (including playoffs). It had been 79 MLS matches since the Galaxy last scored three first half goals, now they've done it in two consecutive matches.
By way of recap, the San Jose Earthquakes continued their scoring streak in the 7' when Steven Lenhart bounced on a rebound Josh Saunders failed to corral. The Galaxy scored their three goals on a David Beckham free kick, Hector Jimenez forcing an own goal, and Landon Donovan finishing a chance created from a San Jose defensive mistake.
"We did a poor job defending set pieces and overall it just wasn’t good," said Bruce Arena. Our goalkeeping was sub-par… We have no one to blame but ourselves. We should not lose a game when we’re up two."
The Galaxy gave up two goals on set pieces and two goals off keeper mistakes. Proper marking by Todd Dunivant on the set piece just before halftime and the Galaxy don't secede momentum to the Quakes the way they did. Seven minutes of stoppage time, compared to just one minute at the end of the match, certainly played a role too.
"I don’t think the officiating was good tonight," said Arena. "The referees had no clue what was going on and all they did was delay the game. The referee completely lost control of the game and I think that’s why there was that disturbance [with Beckham] at the end of the game and they missed a few handballs in the box."
So in a match where everyone's to blame, who played well? Mike Magee led the Galaxy in match impact rating. He created the third Galaxy goal, with a recovery in the box and subsequent layoff to Hector Jimenez who got the assist on the play. Magee won the foul that led to the David Beckham free kick goal.
Becks and Donovan also finished above 40 in MIR, and Robbie Keane was completely nonexistent with an MIR of 10. Keane made successful passes just as many times as he lost possession, and had one shot blocked and another off target. His miss was skied and both shots were outside the box, not something the Galaxy want out of their creative striker.
With Donovan and Beckham getting on the scoring roll, a spark of creativity from Keane could have salvaged a point for the Galaxy. Both defenses were completely ineffectual, so there's plenty of blame to go around. David Junior Lopes conceded two corners, and lost possession 30 times; Todd Dunivant lost possession 38 times.
"The goal before halftime really hurt us," said Landon Donovan. "We fell asleep on a set piece and they made us pay and that gave them some momentum going into half instead of us having the momentum. And it carried into the second half; we didn’t start well and gave up an early goal."
On the goal just after halftime, the Galaxy only had [one man] back when a long ball was played to three San Jose players. Lenhart received it and when [player] stepped up on him that allowed Lenhart to lay it back for Sam Cronin. Josh Saunders didn't have time to come out and Cronin poked it home. Watching the replay, Saunders and Lopes immediately throw their arms out and AJ cocks his head. It looks like there was an offside trap set, but AJ followed Lenhart keeping everyone onside, and by then Juninho had let Cronin through thinking the line had held.
I may have the players wrong, the replay is from a far angle and blurry, but the fact is the communication in the back was awful last night. The notion that the Galaxy defensive woes were healing is still valid, but clearly they cannot contain a truly potent attack the way they could last season.
Current diagnosis: Playoff worthy but not capable of winning in the postseason.