With three tough road matches coming up in the next two weeks, Bruce Arena rested some players, starting his eighth different lineup in nine matches. The result was a disappointing draw at home. So what can we take away from this match?
- Spreading around the minutes: Bruce Arena always seems to have all of his players ready to play. With away matches to RSL, Dallas, and Orlando coming up, Arena rested a number of guys who’ve been playing a lot lately, and started Rafael Garcia, Mika Vayrynen, and rookie Ignacio "Nacho" Maganto in the midfield. This make-shift squad looked solid, if unimpressive. They did enough to keep LA in the match, but the real payoff for this team will come down the stretch. After the match, Arena, speaking of Garcia, said that his current playing time would "give him confidence and have him to prepare to play as we get into the last 25 games or so of the season." The same could be said for the rest of the young guys that were on the pitch.
- Controlling possession: For the last couple of matches the Galaxy ceded possession to their opponents, sat back, and tried to score on counter-attacks. It was nice to see the team control the ball for much of the match. LA had 63% of possession. Of course, much of that was while they were chasing the game, but it was nice to see that, even with a the young and inexperienced lineup, they were able to control the match.
- The subs: With about half an hour left in the match, Arena decided that the team needed a spark. He brought in Juninho, Stefan Ishizaki, and then Alan Gordon, and each had a significant impact on the match. Juninho controlled the midfield. His touches were cleaner than Vayrynen’s had been, and he seemed to cover more ground. Ishizaki, replacing Garcia, immediately added spark to the attack. His ability to hold the ball wide, beat defenders one-on-one, and send in a decent cross was like opening a can of instant offense. Finally, Gordon did what Gordon does. He was in the right place at the right time, and headed in Ishizaki’s corner for the tying goal. Over-all it was an impressive performance for the guys coming off the bench.
- Giving up a soft goal: Somewhat ironically, Colorado scored their goal on a break-away counter-attack on the heels of what was, perhaps, their best stretch of possession in the entire match. Omar Gonzalez, who otherwise had a very solid match, was pushing the ball forward (something that he’s done pretty effectively on a regular basis this year) and had a bad give-away. A one-touch pass from Michael Harrington put Gabriel Torres in behind the LA defense and a chasing Garcia, resulting in a goal. Garcia had actually dropped back to cover for Gonzalez’s run, but, with three guys bracketing him, no one was close enough to Torres to keep him in check. It was a bit of a naive play all the way around. The team defense has been good this year, but the players still need to get better at eliminating those mental mistakes.
- BJIV shows his age: While the defense gave up one goal, the real problems for LA in this match were on the attacking side of the ball. In particular, Bradford Jameison really needed to be better. Like many young players, he tends to rely on his skill and quickness to make things happen. With the exception of one shot in the second half, Colorado did a good job of not giving Jameison the space to take advantage of these attributes. There were other opportunities to be had, but the young striker showed his age, dwelling too long on the ball, and failing to make the off-the-ball runs in key situations. One example of this was late in the match when Gordon flicked on a ball into the box only to find Jameison standing at the top of the eighteen instead of crashing towards the goal. While his youth hurt the team in this match, hopefully the experience he’s getting will help him to contribute more in the future.
- Gyasi Zardes: 2015 has been a tough year for Zardes. With the attacking support that he had last year disappearing, he has become the focus of opposing defenses, and has struggled to adjust. His play this week was a bit of an improvement, as he was able to generate a couple of shots, including a nice opportunity in the 28th minute, but he has continued to have a hard time recapturing his form from 2014. The reality of the situation is that unless someone on the LA attack starts picking up their game, it could be a long season. Zardes has to be that guy. I know that’s a lot of pressure to put on such a young player, but that’s just the situation that he finds himself in. Let’s hope he can do better.
- Disjointed play: Perhaps the biggest disappointment with the LA Galaxy team this year is the lack of flowing play that we had gotten used to over the past couple of seasons. While the team managed to maintain possession in this match, there was still a real lack of cohesiveness. Even after the injection of the quality substitutes, there were lots of unforced errors and poor communication. On too many occasions, promising attacks were killed by bad touches, passes just behind their intended recipients, and poor decisions on the ball. In this respect, the team simply looked bad.
This was a tough match to watch. It was ugly and frustrating. Contrast that with the opening match against Chicago, where the team looked confident and sharp, and it’s disappointing to see the drop in quality. It’s not that Colorado was putting that much more pressure on the midfield, it seems that the team has lost its identity, and is trying to figure out how to play with swagger again. Of course, considering the players missing from last years' team, that's not unexpected. Let’s hope, however, that we see a return of that confidence in the upcoming string of road matches. The boys need to get some more points in the bag.