The LA Galaxy failed to hold on to a 1-0 lead that they carried through the majority of the match, and ended up splitting the points on the road with a strong Seattle Sounders team. Over-all it was a good result, but because of the way the match played out, the team and their fans have to be disappointed that they couldn't hold on to that lead and take home all three points.
As things turned out, there is plenty of both positive and negative points to take away from this match.
- Strong road performance: While LA has done fairly well in Seattle in the past, it's not an easy venue to pick up points. The Galaxy played well and did a good job of imposing their will for most of the game. It was a playoff atmosphere and Seattle was using their physicality and home field advantage throughout the match. LA did an excellent job matching that intensity and adjusting their play to the way the game was being called. Generally, a tie on the road against a tough opponent is a good result, and while more was needed out of this match, it's important to note that failures in earlier fixtures created the situation that the team is in now. If they had taken care of business in September, this result would be seen as an unmitigated success.
- Grinding out a result: I'll talk about the two points the team dropped below, but I think it's also important to note that the ability to grind out a draw in an away match to a tough team is a real skill. We saw the typical tactics of a Bruce Arena coached team in this match: coming out early with a lot of energy, and then shutting things down and absorbing pressure. In other words, grinding out a result. Arena was generally pleased with the defensive performance, saying, "We, for the most part, played pretty well tonight." The good news is that this type of defensive performance bodes well for the playoffs.
- Robbie Keane: What can you say about the "King of Goals?" Robbie Keane keeps doing what he has done for his entire MLS career. He takes his opportunities. As soon as the Seattle defense made a mistake, he jumped on it and stole a goal. His efficiency is invaluable to this club. But the thing that I liked best about Keane's performance on the night was the intensity that he showed. He was much more active than he has been for much of the season. He was working hard defensively, both in the attacking end, and when he dropped back to help defend set pieces. When the captain is engaged like that, the entire squad looks better.
- Dominant first half: As I mentioned above, the Galaxy did a good job managing this match. While Seattle did manage to steal a goal in stoppage time, LA had pretty much controlled things up until that point. The most impressive part of that was the play in the first half. While the Sounders had a slight advantage in possession, LA outshot them 8-2, and had significantly more possession in the attacking third than their opponents. Basically they came into Century Link and made it their own for the first 45 minutes. Once again, this bodes well for potential playoff matchups.
- Squandering two points: You can tell from my discussion of the positives above that the gut feeling you get walking away from a match like this is overwhelmingly that of a missed opportunity. As Keane said after the match, "I am disappointed we didn’t win the game. It is as simple as that." LA had a chance to keep pace in the race for the Supporters' Shield, and they failed to capitalize. In addition, despite managing the game well, a tiny break of concentration in the dying moments proved costly. That can affect the team one of two ways. It can either sap confidence, or it can galvanize their efforts in the future. Let's hope for the latter.
- Injuries: While being plagued with injuries for the entire first half of the season, this team has been very lucky in the second half. Unfortunately, Robbie Rogers and Juninho both had to be subbed out of the match due to injury concerns. Rogers left at half-time with what appeared to be a lower-back or hip issue, and Junhi came out with cramps in the 78th minute. While the back-ups that stepped in for them were adequate, there was a clear drop in danger going forward on the left with Dave Romney replacing Rogers. That may have been tactical to some degree, but I suspect there is a significant drop off there. To top things off, after the match it was announced that Giovani dos Santos would miss his international call-up due to a soft-tissue injury. Let's hope that all three injured players will be ready to go again soon.
- Bruce ball: This may be a bit controversial, but I was really disappointed to see LA close up shop and try to run out the match for the entire second half. There were a number of times when LA got into the attacking third and just took the ball out wide and tried to kill time. As I mentioned above, this is a hallmark of teams coached by Arena, and he has compiled an unrivaled resume in MLS by knowing when to deploy these tactics. This match, however, demonstrated the danger in not getting that balance right. It would have been great to see the team push a little harder for an insurance goal in the middle of the second half (after absorbing Seattles post-break surge). There is one other issue with deploying this strategy with this particular team...
- Lack of counter-attacking threat: In years past, LA has been known for their lightning-quick and ruthlessly efficient counter-attack. Landon Donovan was a guy who could sprint 80 yards at full speed in the 90th minute of a match and still control the ball and round the 'keeper, or draw in the defense and dish to a wide-open teammate. The Galaxy don't have that guy anymore. In this match we saw that dos Santos doesn't quite have the pace to get behind a defense. We say that Steven Gerrard is still a little out of sync with his teammates. We no longer have that guy who can work combinations with Keane in transition to create mis-matches. In theory, the combination of Gyasi Zardes, Keane, Gio, and Gerrard should be able to orchestrate a deadly counter... but we haven't really seen it on a consistent basis yet. I think that the loss of that weapon in LA's attacking arsenal may prove to be quite costly, but let's hope not.