One of the story lines from last night's 2-1 LA Galaxy defeat at the hands of Monterrey is that everything started to go south when Juninho went out with an injury an hour into the match.
Juninho was responsible for two interceptions, two clearances, and one blocked cross. Where he really shined was in winning the ball back, as he was responsible for eleven recoveries during his time on the pitch. That was 18% of the team's total recoveries.
It was Juninho who chipped the ball up to Jose Villarreal from an inbounds play that led to the Galaxy's goal. A.J. DeLaGarza was the player who inbounded the ball, then sprinted to catch up with the play and tap in Mike Magee's pass.
The Galaxy's first solid attempt on goal, a low percentage Mike Magee shot from outside the box, came from a Juninho recovery. Sean Franklin was dispossessed, but only as far as Juninho who calmly headed the ball to Marcelo Sarvas. Sarvas got the ball up to Robbie Keane who got the ball to Mike Magee for the shot.
LA's numbers before Juninho were quite fantastic, especially when it came to second change possessions; the kind of possessions recoveries create. Only three of Monterrey's clearances actually resulted in a change of possession in the sixty minutes while Juninho was on the pitch. His midfield play and his corner kicks were directly responsible for the Galaxy getting three shots on target.
Monterrey's passes per possession didn't go up any with Juninho out, averaging three each time they had the ball. The Galaxy were at about 2.5 on either side of the injury, so it wasn't much of a change their either.
What really changed for the Galaxy with Juninho's injury was the lack of creativity in the midfield. Juninho is able to see the flow of the game in a way that Michael Stephens can't, and the Galaxy missed his ability to kickstart a possession.