It's been a while since the LA Galaxy have managed a dominating win, but that's exactly what happened on Wednesday evening, as they handily defeated PSA Elite 6-1. Of course, PSA Elite is a semi-pro team, so it's hard to take too much away from this match, but I'm going to try none-the-less.
- A dominant win: Let's say it again: "This was against a semi-pro team." Still... how fun is it to see this Galaxy squad play open, attacking soccer again? Bruce Arena seemed to take the reigns off the team for this match and just let them go at it. They looked like they were having fun, and with a little bit of luck, the scoreline could have been much bigger. This match was the first time all year LA have come anywhere near to producing tiki-taco football, and one of the most exciting elements of that was that the quick combination play was coming from young players like Ignacio Maganto, Jose Villareal, and Sebastian Lletget. Two out of three of these guys were not with the team last year, and Villareal played a pretty minor role with that squad. The fact that these guys look to be a little more prepared to step it up bodes well for the rest of the MLS season (as long as they can all stay healthy).
- Robbie Keane: Speaking of staying healthy... Keane was back with a vengeance. This was the lethal Robbie Keane that we haven't seen in months. He had three goals and an assist in this match, and the thing that he brings to this team that no other player on the squad can offer is the ability to finish off those sweet build-ups. Keane put in a solid 70 minutes, and looked ready to get right back at it. In addition, the fact that he scored three goals should feed his confidence and make him less prone to the outbursts of frustration that seem to be his biggest downfall on the pitch.
- Lletget: Yeah... everyone is going to the obvious "Lletget is legit" pun... but the kid really does look very good. He lined up with Kenny Walker (who, not incidentally, had a very solid game as a deep-lying central mid) in the center of the pitch and proceeded to run the attack for LA. He was everywhere. He was beating the defense to the endline and chipping the ball back into the middle of the box. He was making the quick little possession passes that tire out the opposing midfield. He was chipping the ball over the defense to setup goals. He even may have scored a goal off on a header off of a corner (from the replay, I thought that was a very generous call for LA, but in the end it didn't really matter). He looks to be a very complete player. The question is whether or not we can get the defensive work out of him that we're going to need. It's too early to say this for sure, but with all the excitement of Steven Gerrard coming to LA, in the long term Lletget may prove to be the better pick-up.
- Team attack: I've kind of already covered this one above, but I think it's important to say that this team really looked to be in sync with one-another. All six goals that the Galaxy scored were assisted. If we were using MLS rules for secondary assists, the four goals that came from the run of play all could have been credited. This would mean that nine out of the thirteen field players were involved in the scoring (the only four field players not involved in goals were defenders). That's really quite amazing, and hopeful moving forward.
- Building confidence: Speaking of moving forward, something this team has been sorely lacking all season is the confidence and swagger to attack like they did last year. Some might say they have lacked the quality as well. However, with new players like Lletget and Maganto starting to find their feet, injured players like Keane and Villareal starting look comfortable, and established players like Baggio Husidic starting trust the young guys, this team seems to be building a little confidence. The book on Arena-coached teams is that they struggle through the early part of the season, grinding out results, and then come together down the stretch to peak at just the right time. Quite honestly I've been skeptical that this team had the ability to replicate that pattern, and this match is the first evidence that I've seen that gives me a little hope going forward.
- Defensive breakdowns: Despite an overwhelmingly positive showing in this match, there were a couple of things that we can still be a little wary of. The biggest concern was the early defensive breakdowns. PSA Elite could have opened the scoring on an early corner kick where one of their players ghosted into space on the far post to get an open shot. Luckily for LA, he seemed to be surprised when the ball fell to him, and pushed his shot wide of an open goal. Of course, PSA still managed to score the opening goal of the match on a counter-attack. There may have been a shout for offside on the secondary assist, but the play exposed one of LA's primary defensive weaknesses: a lack of speed in the center of the pitch. This team has been vulnerable to the counter-attack much of the season, and needs to figure out a way to mitigate that weakness.
- A few missing players: I'm not sure you could really call this a weakness, but let's go with it anyway. It sure would have been nice to give Edson Buddle and Todd Dunivant a run-out in the match. Evidently they still aren't healthy, and we may not see much of them for the rest of the season. By necessity, Arena has been pretty intent on developing some depth at left back, and Rafael Garcia put in a good shift there this match. Up top, Villareal has demonstrated that he can fill in adequately as a target guy, and with Keane coming back and Allan Gordon coming off the bench, the minutes are going to be scarce for Buddle. However, both of these veteran players may still play a role with this squad, and the sooner they can get back on the pitch, the better it will be for the team.