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LA Galaxy can't break down the walls of San Jose-ico

In a match like the one San Jose played against the LA Galaxy, the question one has to ask is how the Galaxy were kept from getting the match winner despite have such high levels of possession. There's no denying that LA did many things right, so first the focus has to be on what San Jose did differently.

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

In a match like the one San Jose played against the LA Galaxy, the question one has to ask is how the Galaxy were kept from getting the match winner despite have such high levels of possession. There's no denying that LA did many things right, so first the focus has to be on what San Jose did differently.

The Earthquakes have three counter attack goals on the year, two of which came in the match against LA. Counter attack goals aren't all that common in MLS, the league leaders in the stat are Philadelphia and Toronto with four. That's mainly because the criteria for a counter attack is quite strict. San Jose's first goal went recovery-pass-assist-goal. In the three minutes before the goal San Jose only had one other event in the attacking half; an unsuccessful pass.

Here's what San Jose's are San Jose's average player positions over ninety minutes. Note, they are attacking right to left.

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Every midfielder is positioned in the defensive half, and Matias Garcia is barely in the attacking half. It's not surprising that the Galaxy looked like this against San Jose.

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Juninho stands centrally as a safety vale, but otherwise it's full on attack. San Jose don't always play so defensively. In their victory against Seattle the wide midfielders were pushed up to play a winger role, against LA they were pinned down into a defensive role. Still, Shea Salinas was able to kickstart both goals from a deep position and San Jose proved adept at rapid sequence goal scoring.

That's how San Jose was able to score twice in the first half; bunkering and then a quick counter attack sprung after a recovery and long pass. So why wasn't LA able to break down San Jose's wall despite having the attacking numbers that they did? For that we'll have to look at the expected role of the attackers and how well they fulfilled that role.

LA had 14 key passes against San Jose. Robbie Rogers had three on overlapping runs, Dan Gargan had one. Landon Donovan had two from the run of play, one from a corner, Stefan Ishizaki had three from the run of play and one corner. Robbie Keane had two, Gyasi Zardes had one. Not one of those key passes took place inside the penalty area.

In the first half, the Galaxy were only able to get two shots on target, one of which came from Omar Gonzalez at the top of the penalty area from a Robbie Rogers cross. LA managed seven key passes and an assist in the first half, San Jose also blocked six shot attempts. San Jose were really thickly bunkered in. LA turned to the aerial game blasting the Quakes with 48 crosses during the match, but very few were successful.

Forty percent of the match was spent in the away third, and 58% of LA's shots were taken inside the 18 yard box; 71% of LA's shots came from the middle. San Jose was happy to let them pass the ball around and take shots with no chance of going in. The four shots on target that didn't end up as goals were taken from the edge of the penalty area. Eighteen shots were blocked or off target, that's not exactly a huge challenge to Busch despite all the possession.

Looking at the match this way makes it understandable why Bruce Arena went after a player like Alan Gordon. That Rob Friend wasn't even available shows that Arena either wasn't expecting this type of match from San Jose or Arena doesn't trust him anyone to get that late goal when it's needed.