The LA Galaxy yet again played a closely contested match where they were able to have a large amount of possession in the attack half, which turned into a high number of shots, but still resulted in a tight scoreline. They were able to pull this one out 2-1, avoiding the dreaded slip in the last fifteen minutes. It was a better performance, but there is still much to be worked on.
Despite outshooting Vancouver 22 - 4, both of Vancouver's shots on goal were big chances. It took a massive leg save from Carlo Cudicini to secure all three points, and in a match where LA enforced their will upon their opponent everything turned on two Vancouver shots. There was the breakaway that went in, and there was the 73' shot that was saved. Twenty two shots sounds great, but seven deflected shots and seven shots high over the goal are just wasted possession.
"I wouldn't say it was dominant because obviously we conceded a goal in the first twenty minutes," said Bruce Arena. "Didn't make it easy on ourselves."
It took individual skill to get the Galaxy all three points tonight. Gyasi Zardes made something out of nothing chasing down a Todd Dunivant long ball to the touchline, chipping the ball over his slipping marker then redirecting the ball past Brad Knighton. The ball changed direction three times, all on the foot of Zardes, with a defender and a goalkeeper in his way.
It was the kind of performance folk have been waiting for out of Zardes, an ability to make something out of nothing and put the ball on target with his foot. It was a glimpse of the potential that Zardes has shown.
The first Galaxy goal was needlessly controversial. Jose Villarreal was onside as Omar Gonzalez redirected a Juninho free kick back toward the center of the penalty area. Gyasi Zardes made a move for the ball but did not connect with it. Not connecting kept Jose Villarreal onside who was able to tap it in for an easy goal. The linesman initially calling it offside was a mistake, he called the head referee over they discussed it and the right call was made.
"It was an excellent decision by the officiating crew," said Bruce Arena. "We thought Gyasi didn't touch the ball. To be able to communicate that and get it right was a big play in the game."
Sarvas was taken out early due to yellow card protection. LA had to start Pablo Mastroeni for the first time since he joined the club, because Robbie Rogers was scratched with a right hamstring issue. Mastroeni played in the middle with Sarvas going out wide.
That plus Robbie Keane's absence made for a very different offensive look. Zardes and Villarreal did fine up top on their own, and though he wasn't spectacular Mastroeni was serviceable. Laurent Courtois also made his Galaxy debut coming on for four minutes of closing down the match.
Instead of pushing in the final fifteen as LA has done on several occasions, this time out they pulled out all the clock wasting tricks. Michael Stephens re-emerged from the bench in his shut down role. It may not be exciting, but it's what LA has done successfully to close out matches in the past.
"We've really given up a lot of points at the end of games this year," said Bruce Arena. "I'm happy we could hang on tonight; that's good for the player's confidence."
Now LA loses another player, Omar Gonzalez heading off to join the US national team in Dallas should they win on Sunday. He'll be re-united with Landon Donovan, but back in LA they'll need to get Tommy Meyer or Leonardo ready to step up and fill his shoes on the road in Colorado.
For now a tight Western Conference race continues to be too close to call, with LA pulling up to third tonight only four points behind Real Salt Lake. Playoff positioning is still completely up for grabs. As is the Supporters' Shield.