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Dissecting the LA Galaxy, Top Gun style

What is it that makes this team so dangerous?

"You can be my wingman anytime". "Bull@#$%, you can be mine".
"You can be my wingman anytime". "Bull@#$%, you can be mine".
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating comparing the Galaxy to an '80s movie. Though the 2014 Galaxy features an all-star lineup, like Top Gun. And this season has starred Landon Donovan, a short protagonist looking to beat the odds and make history after suffering the cruelest of heartbreaks. Like Top Gun.

Come to think of it, Landon and Omar just filmed a volleyball scene. (Nah, not enough suppressed erotic tension)

All joking aside, it took awhile for LA to get going this year, as Bruce Arena made roster tweaks and experimented with formations in search of the right lineup. (Remember the diamond?) Then at the end of July, the Galaxy went into CenturyLink Field, spanked the Sounders 3-0 on national television and haven't looked back since.

So what is it about this lineup that makes the Galaxy so dangerous?


It's no accident Dan Gargan and Robbie Rogers are listed as midfielders on the MLS website.

As defenders, they offer contrasting styles: Gargan likes to push up and keep possession, while Rogers sits back and is more deliberate with his forward movement. But in tandem, they create a dynamic that's simply a headache for opposing teams.

When Gargan and Rogers start in a flat 4-4-2, the Galaxy average 2.57 goals a game and over 57% in possession. Impressively, 1 of 3 goals they score involves one of the outside backs inside the final third. (Or as I call it, the danger zone!)

The benefits of the pairing are numerous. In addition to stretching out defenses, their attacking prowess gives LA the ability to bypass the midfield. This has made life easier for Marcelo Sarvas, who very quietly has 11 assists this year and more often than not, instead of having to create, just has to make the simple pass.

They also do a good job of preventing attacks from breaking out, snuffing the life out of teams. Gargan in particular is effective at demonstrating the old adage that the best defense is a good offense. Take a look at his distribution chart from the 3-0 drubbing in Seattle, with Landon Donovan's numbers on the left for comparison.


It's as if LA is playing with an extra midfielder.

The pair are just disciplined enough to avoid being a liability defensively, and on the rare occasion Gargan is beaten by pace or Rogers commits a bad turnover, the trusty duo of Omar Gonzales and A.J. DeLaGarza are there to clean up the mess.

When Rogers and Gargan start, the Galaxy, as Rog from Men in Blazers would say, dominate.

I couldn't help but notice both Bruce Arena and Dave Sarachan have used the word balance to describe the team's play recently, an observation that's apt in more ways than one.

Landon Donovan- 10 goals, 19 assists
Stefan Ishzaki- 4 goals, 7 assists
Baggio Husidic- 4 goals, 3 assists
Marcelo Sarvas- 2 goals, 11 assists

That's an incredibly well-balanced midfield. Even Juninho has chipped in 4 assists while thriving as a pure defensive midfielder.

Just how efficient is this LA attack? The Galaxy can tear you to pieces from either channel or right up the gut with ease. After they pass you to death, that is.

LA Galaxy 2014 attack distribution chart

(Positional chart courtesy of

Imagine being an MLS head coach who has to formulate a game plan to stop that.

Up top, Gyasi Zardes has continued to blossom as a striker as the Galaxy take the good (16 goals) along with the bad (2 assists). And then there's Robbie Keane, the one guy that doesn't need a fancy breakdown.

When he gets the ball, good things happen. And with the Galaxy engine running so smoothly, Keane is getting more touches than he ever has.


Are the 2014 LA Galaxy the greatest team in MLS history? I would say so. As Taylor Twellman opined on the Big Head Red Head podcast, where's their weakness?

It's one thing to point out the wins, the goals, the record breaking achievements, etc. But the manner in which LA has ruthlessly dominated opponent after opponent is really something to behold. Since the World Cup, the Galaxy have played at a level in MLS that I've never seen before.

I also believe LA has to win MLS Cup to prove it. When the Galaxy battle the Sounders at home and away to close out the regular season with the Supporter's Shield on the line...well, you couldn't script better TV drama. It's going to be a dogfight.

Hopefully Landon is victorious, so he can walk away from the game to the warm plaudits he so richly deserves.

I mean Maverick.