The LA Galaxy and Colorado Rapids played about as close of a match as two teams can play while still having a winner emerge, the Rocky Mountain club finding a 2-0 victory on goals around the halftime break. Mental letdowns and an inability to meet Colorado's physicality kept LA out of this one, and an inability to finish kept them from coming back.
Statistically, the two clubs were neck and neck. Shots were 11-10 in favor of the Galaxy, passes 381-380 in favor of the Galaxy, possession 50.2% to 49.8% to the Rapids. What separated the two sides were two big chances, one that the Rapids put in and one that the Galaxy fluffed.
The Rapids had a great pass sequence that led to their second goal, with Edson Buddle connecting with Dillon Powers on a give and go that sliced right through the Galaxy back line. Gyasi Zardes limited himself to three shot attempts, but his 88' header that went just over the crossbar was judged by MLS statisticians to be his fifth big chance fluffed on the season.
"I wouldn't say sloppy, said Bruce Arena, "but they physically manhandled us. They won the battles most of the day. It was a really poor goal for us to give up at the end of the first half. It was a big play and obviously not a good way to start the second half by letting them create the second goal. Overall, we deserved to get beat."
There was controversy early, as Hendry Thomas had two risky studs up tackles but was only shown a yellow after the second. Then Juninho was shown a yellow card for simulation after Thomas stuck out his leg taking out the Galaxy midfielder. Pablo Mastroeni was so upset by the call he continued to yell at the ref for a solid minute, even after play continued, earning him a yellow for dissent. That Thomas then went and scored the opening goal for the Rapids on a set piece header was salt in the wound.
Otherwise it wasn't especially physical so far as fouls are concerned, with the teams combining for 21 fouls. More the Rapids physicality threw off LA's rhythm. The teams finished with the same pass accuracy, but that was on a below average performance for LA.
"I think overall the effort was there," said Pablo Mastroeni. "We've just got to clean up a few things and keep working on concentrating on set pieces."
The Galaxy actually are strong on defending set pieces, but when they have given up set piece goals it's been on the road. Seven of their eight set piece goals conceded this season have been on the road. It ties into the story of playing for a draw, being out toughed, and making mental errors when on the road.
"We've got to have a better road mentality," said A.J. DeLaGarza. "It's as simple as that. I don't know how you do that."
It's not that crazy to believe the Galaxy could be that much better at home on set pieces, when you consider they've only allowed four goals at home all year. Then they go on the road and allow 23. The back line has a Jekyll and Hyde element to them and it's resulted in a road victory drought going back to May.
It's unfair to rake this team over the coals without mentioning the absence of Robbie Keane, Omar Gonzalez, Landon Donovan, and Robbie Rogers. This wasn't an ideal Galaxy squad. However, with friendlies and CONCACAF Champions League on the horizon, the Galaxy depth is going to have to step up bigger especially on the road.