An innocent bystander may have mistaken the New York Red Bulls as the team chasing the Supporters Shield in Tuesday’s 2-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The heavyweight clash was critical to both teams: LA looking to clinch the No. 1 overall spot in MLS and New York simply hanging on for dear life in the final wild card position. What the Galaxy lacked in life the Red Bulls more than made up for in effort. It could have been far uglier on the scoreboard, too, had Luke Rodgers and Thierry Henry not each hit the post.
True, Los Angeles was jet lagged and without two of its best players: Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane. Having just fought out a gritty, character-building 2-1 victory at home over Real Salt Lake on Saturday, it’s no wonder that a cross-country flight to play in New Jersey less than 72 hours later had LA looking sluggish.
But the blue collar work ethic that lifted the Galaxy to recent victories is truly what lacked on Tuesday.
Chad Barrett, who scored a scrappy goal against Real Salt Lake on Saturday thanks to physical play and hard work, blew several chances inside the box on Tuesday. There was no killer instinct.
As solid as defenders Omar Gonzalez and A.J. DeLaGarza have been this season, Tuesday was certainly an off night. Their decision making was often questionable.
The good thing for LA is that the performance was likely a one-off situation. Come Oct. 16, the Galaxy will be well rested and revved up to take down Chivas USA, Home Depot Center co-tenants.
And when that Super Clasico rolls around, Los Angeles’ white collar roster needs to bring that blue collar work ethic to the HDC. It’s that hard work ethic that saw LA get through the recent grind with a tough 1-0 win in Columbus on Sept. 24, a massive last-second CONCACAF Champions League victory in Morelia to stay alive in the competition and another come from behind 2-1 home victory over Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
That stretch of matches really proved that LA is a team which has the spirit to get through tough stretches, much like the one that will be presented in the playoffs. Yes, this team has proven a lot over the course of the season with attractive, convincing soccer. Hence, it is on the verge of claiming the Supporters Shield. But this recent stretch showed something different.
It was a span of games that showed that LA is a team that can handle adversity; that Donovan, Keane and David Beckham are not the only players that make this club tick (which Galaxy fans know, but adversaries may overlook).
Now Los Angeles has to prove yet again that it can respond positively to a poor performance on Oct. 16 against Chivas USA. Tuesday’s loss to New York stings, but the Galaxy have a chance to right the ship against its biggest rivals next weekend. And like any derby, that will require some tough, blue collar work.