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Positives and Negatives: LA Galaxy at Sporting Kansas City

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Profligate finishing dooms the LA Galaxy as they lose to Sporting Kansas City 2-1, setting up a playoff rematch with the Seattle Sounders.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The LA Galaxy couldn't come back from a 2-1 deficit after having many chances to tie, or even win, the final game of their 2015 season. To be fair, Sporting Kansas City were gifted one of their two goals with a missed offsides call, but the Galaxy have only themselves to blame with multiple blown chances in the final third.  Overall, it's a disappointing result, one that leaves fans feeling negative heading into Wednesday's playoff rematch with Seattle.

Here are the positives and negatives to take away for the knock-out game on Wednesday:

Positives:

  • Chances created:  In recent weeks the LA attack has seemed blunt, and final third chances have appeared few and far between, barring a moment of brilliance from Robbie Keane.  Today, Giovani Dos Santos buzzed around the final 18, Lletget was able to beat players up the left, Gerrard had chances, and even AJ DeLaGarza managed a few runs up the right.  LA had 6 key passes and 1 assist even in a game where their final third accuracy was hit or miss.
  • Starting positions of Gerrard & Juninho:  In contrast to previous weeks, Gerrard started further up the pitch from Juninho, leaving Juni with the clear directive to stay home and protect the backline.  Having Gerrard up the pitch caused confusion among the SKC defense by giving the Galaxy another runner out of midfield.  Ideally this positioning continues into Wednesday, and generates the chances seen today.
  • Better organization from the D:  On the heels of an absolute stinker, Omar Gonzalez had 19 interceptions today (!), though he and AJ DeLaGarza did get beat by a beautiful pass from Benny Feilhaber on SKC's winner.  On the heels of a 5-2 beatdown from Portland, today felt more organized and less like the defense had left town.  Ricketts even came up with a couple of very good saves.
  • Improvement from Giovani dos Santos:  Of the 7 key passes that LA generated, Gio had three of them including an assist.  He was much more involved in the game than in previous weeks, and more dangerous in transition.

Negatives:

  • Gerrard after Minute 60:  It is painful to watch Steven Gerrard labor up the pitch in the last 30 minutes of games.  Don't know if he has a full 90 in him at this point in the season (or at all), and against SKC he faded badly after the 60th minute.  From minute 66 to 84 he has a total of one touch, and it's a poor one.  From minute 66 on, he has only four touches.  In comparison, Juninho is everywhere.  Bruce Arena may need to face that Gerrard is good for only 60 minutes, and then needs to be pulled.  Today he was an asset in the first 60, and a liability in the final 30 as he tired.
  • Lack of accuracy in the final third:  SKC passing accuracy in the final third = 67%.  LA Galaxy passing accuracy in the final third = 52%.  That could sum up the loss.  The attacking players have a sea of red on the chalkboard representing poor decisions in the final third, and in particular the final 18.  Lletget and Zardes squandered good positions that could have resulted in goals.  Gerrard missed a wide open shot.  They have got to be better during the playoffs.
  • Pinned down on the left: Robbie Rogers was not able to get up the left once.  That removes a weapon from our offense as AJ DeLaGarza generally stays home.  No combination play from Rogers left Lletget alone and having to beat his defender.  He did do exactly this a few times, but then made some bad decisions once he got into the box, over dribbling into traffic and causing his teammates to yell at him for his poor decision-making.
Entering the playoffs, this team is definitely not playing it's best soccer.  Bruce Arena doesn't have the midfield gelled, players are in and out of form, LA still can't win a road game, and games often feel like a one man show (hello Robbie Keane).  Add to that the exhaustion of playing another game on Wednesday against a team with an in form Dempsey & Martins, and it all feels like doom and gloom and an early exit for LA.  The MLS Cup seems like a pretty far shot.  Frankly, a win on Wednesday seems like a pretty far shot.

However, this team has players that pull out the big guns for the playoffs, and in a one-game knockout round, you never know what will happen.  LA has eliminated Seattle in 2010, 2012 and 2014.  The players know this on both sides, and the Galaxy will know they are underdogs.  Keane has a moment of brilliance, and maybe, just maybe, those shots from Gerrard and Zardes go in.

It'll be hard, but it's not impossible.  See everyone Wednesday.