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Midfield holes and why Vayrynen is not the answer

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A plea to Bruce Arena to move Baggio back to where he belongs.

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Do you guys remember last year when the LA Galaxy last went to Cascasdia and completely bossed around a team? It's been awhile, but who could forget LA's 3-0 defeat of the Seattle Sounders last year. Not only was that the game that turned around the Galaxy season, but it was also the debut of their new formation which Matt Doyle dubbed "the Y."

Here is a look at it from that game, courtesy of whoscored.com.

As you can see LA's "flat four" actually looked like the letter Y, with Sarvas sitting in front of Juninho and providing occasional surging runs forward to help push tempo up the field and create shots. The wingers were able to spread wide and into advanced positions.

Unfortunately, with Marcelo Sarvas gone, LA is scrambling to fill this role. Now I have been very vocal in my support of Baggio Husidic and I used advanced metrics to bust this narrative a bit last week.

Despite this, the Galaxy faithful aren't quite fans of him just yet, and honestly, it's unclear whether Bruce Arena is either. Of late he has been pairing Mika Vayrynen with Juninho. When Vayrynen was signed, he was sold to fans as a creative box to box type midfielder, which would explain the pairing. Unfortunately, Mika just isn't doing the job that the top of the Y needs to do and this more than anything hurt the Galaxy against Vancouver.

Here is Mika Vayrynen's heat map. As you can see, he sat back very deep.

And his passing map is even uglier and far too conservative.

Since Juninho also sits back, you get the same problem LA had in the first game of the season—a giant hole in the center of the final third. I tweeted about this heavily throughout the game, but I wanted to elaborate a bit.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Number 6, Baggio is our only top of the box node of passing. Vayrynen, 3, not playing two ways. We have no lm <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/VanvLA?src=hash">#VanvLA</a> <a href="http://t.co/MmmPIh8bf6">pic.twitter.com/MmmPIh8bf6</a></p>&mdash; LAG Confidential (@LAGConfidential) <a href="https://twitter.com/LAGConfidential/status/584545910006251520">April 5, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

This can literally cripple an offense as positional black holes tend to have sufficient gravitational pull to disrupt the natural positioning of players around it as they all start making their way towards the gap in an attempt to fill it. This can be seen in the first half passing chart.

Baggio Husidic, Stefan Ishizaki and Robbie Keane were all pulled into this hole and couldn't sufficiently fill it. The lack of wing production was the result of players cheating towards the hole (also Baggio is a poor out and out winger) they weren't the only ones effected.Just look how far away from goal Robbie Keane spent most of the game.

Positional black holes are murder and in the second half, LA got some relief when Mika Vayrynen was pulled for an injury, although I would hope that Bruce would have had the good sense to pull him regardless, and Baggio Husidic was paired with Juninho. The beginning of the second half was the only time the LA Galaxy looked good in this game-- something that Gyasi Zardes acknowledged in a pot game interview with Time Wanrner Sports Net. This was all Baggio and the insertion of a left midfielder who provided width (albeit poor crosses as usual from Rogers).

And here's the thing about Baggio. I know many fans and even analyst deride him for not being Marcelo Sarvas, but the fact of the matter is, he is the only midfielder we have that fills the same role in the Galaxy system as Marcelo. Let me state this again just so we're perfectly clear: HE IS OUR ONLY TOP Y MIDFIELDER. Here is his game heat map.

Now here is a heat map from last year of Marcelo Sarvas.

If you take the ground that Baggio covered in the first half and imagine it in the center of the park, it's not all that different from Sarvas. He only averages 10 passes less per game, after all. Baggio has a very laid back demeanor which masks his impressive work rate, but don't let that fool you. Baggio Husidic runs a freaking ton.

Now let's look at Mika's first half passing compared to Baggio's second half passing

Baggio may not show the "heart" that Marcelo Sarvas showed so often on the field, and Mika may be the sexy choice for fans because of the intrigue of his foreignness, but it is the wrong one. Baggio fits our system. Mike does not.

The primary reason we started the second half so well was the positioning and work rate of Baggio Husidic. Of course, Baggio's final third touches weren't coming to anything, but this is partially to do with the absence of Villarreal who continues to be our leading attacking threat this year according to the numbers and also because Edson Buddle got significant minutes in the second half. Edson had a strong performance, but he's not really the type whose runs will facilitate passes that will create shots. He did, however, give Ishizaki a target, so it was actually not a bad sub by Bruce.

At the end of the game, Bruce pretty much threw every player under the bus for what was essentially his own doing. By fielding a central pairing that didn't go forward, he set the table for the Galaxy horrendous attacking performance. Bruce needs to stop with the midfield experimenting. He has a tandem in Baggio and Juninho that is consistently creating shots and once we get Villarreal back on the field and Rogers back at left back, we'll once again have the pieces to succeed.  If we do that, we'll be fine. If not... oh boy.