The LA Galaxy held Sporting Kansas City to two completed crosses and nine attempted. That was Sporting KC's lowest totals in those categories in twenty four matches. For comparison's sake, Landon Donovan completed three crosses all on his own. I want to figure out if this is significant.
Midweek against the New York Red Bulls, San Jose got outstanding performances from Aurelien Collin, Graham Zusi, and Jimmy Nielsen. Since this is a story about KC's crosses, let's stick with Zusi for a moment. Zusi is leading MLS in crosses and key passes.
Against the Red Bulls, Zusi picked up an assist off a corner kick, and scored a goal when a cross bounced in the box and went into the back of the net. He had four passes that led to shot attempts, three of them free kicks. So it's worth noting in talking about the play of Zusi this week that only one of his passes that led the scoring attempts came from the run of play.
Which means that a great deal of the praise to be heaped on Zusi for his performance against New York should be shared with the eight fouls earned on Kansas City's offensive half (none earned by Zusi) and the five corners Zusi was able to take.
For if you truly want to see the difference between Kansas City Saturday and Kansas City Wednesday, there it is. The Galaxy only gave up one foul within spitting distance of the penalty area, and that one free kick led to Zusi hitting the crossbar so hard it sounded like cannon fire.
Kansas City was held to a corner kick and a ball in from a defender. Those were the only completed crosses. There were five unsuccessful crosses from the run of play and two more corner kicks. That speaks to midfielders putting pressure on wingers and tall, imposing center backs preventing play in the box.
The Galaxy's second goal came on Kansas City's last cross of the night. Seth Sinovic sends in a hopeful ball that three Galaxy defenders popped out of the box. Marcelo Sarvas recovers, then starts the break sending the ball up to Keane.
The thing to keep in mind going forward, however, is not to fall into an old law trap; post hoc, ergo propter hoc. After the Galaxy return to the 2012 back line they get a shutout and hold a good crossing team to two completed crosses, therefore it happened because they returned to the 2012 back line.
Correlation is not causation in this case. The Galaxy got a tired Kansas City, and because LA wasn't interested in playing an overly physical match they didn't let KC rope them into one. Sporting had the bigger share of possession, which was fine from LA's perspective. Wait for lose balls and then simply outrun KC on the counter.
Having the ability to outrun KC on the counter, now that's a noteworthy achievement. It's not something Michael Stephens would have been great at; it's not something Colin Clark has given the Galaxy. Landon Donovan, in form, is what LA has been laking.
If LA were to meet a full strength KC in MLS Cup, a version of Sporting to were willing to get physical and draw fouls near the goal, well that would be a very interesting day.