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Positives and Negatives: Seattle Sounders at LA Galaxy

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The LA Galaxy battled back from an early mistake to secure a 3-1 victory at home against a short-handed Sounders squad.

Giovani dos Santos and Gyasi Zardes are part of the most dangerous attack in MLS.
Giovani dos Santos and Gyasi Zardes are part of the most dangerous attack in MLS.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

This was the first match of the new-look LA Galaxy, and there's a lot of room for optimism. The Galaxy ended their 2014 championship season with a lot of question. They started the 2015 season with a few answers (knowing that Steven Gerrard would be coming in the summer), but perhaps even more questions had been raised. Marcelo Sarvas left for Colorado and Robbie Keane went down injured. Where were the goals going to come from?

Starting an attacking six composed of Juninho, Sebastian Lletget, Steven Gerrard, Gyasi Zardes, Giovani dos Santos, and Robbie Keane... it seems that the goals are going to come from everywhere. Now the question is: Who is going to defend?

Let's look into that in more detail.

Positives:

  • Dynamic attacking: As I said above, the goals look like they can come from everywhere. Despite giving up an early goal and starting slowly, LA grew into the match, and starting about midway through the first half, had no problem at all creating goalscoring opportunities. The danger of giving up an early goal is that it gives your opponent the opportunity to "park the bus," absorb the pressure, and then hit you on the counter attack. However, despite Seattle sitting back, LA was able to open them up. Zardes scored the equalizing goal on a sublime finish with the outside of his right foot 12 minutes into the match. After that, the game started to open up, and LA continuously seemed to be on the verge of scoring, producing intricate passing sequences resembling the tiki-taco of 2014, producing 17 shots (7 on goal) and an 84% pass completion rate. Counterintuitively, the most heartening thing about all of this is that the team still didn't look like they were quite on the same page. If these guys are able to get to know each other better, the remainder of the season could be very entertaining.
  • Come-from-behind win: You never want to give up an early goal, but the response from this team was poised and confident. They didn't get angry. They didn't rush to try to score the equalizer. They just played their game. They were patient on the ball and showed faith in their ability to get the job done. With Zardes' clinical finish, after only 12 minutes they were right back in the match. Experiencing and over-coming this type of adversity can only improve the team heading into the playoff stretch.
  • Giovani dos Santos: It seems like all of the positives in this post-match write-up are full of caveats. Dos Santos' MLS debut is no exception. The Mexican international had a definite impact on the match, with a goal and an assist. He was clever on the ball and created pressure on the Seattle defense by opening up space for his teammates. And yet... you can't help but feel he wasn't quite up to his own standards. There were times when he seemed to be on a different page from Keane and Gerrard. He occasionally made runs that were unexpected, or failed to hit one of his teammates on an open pass. In other words, he can have a stunning impact on a match even when not playing well. That should scare the rest of the league.
  • Gyasi Zardes: I know that I have been singing in the Zardes choir for some time now, but with the addition of dos Santos, Gerrard, and Lletget, along with the return of Keane, all of a sudden the young home-grown player has space to operate. He did a great job taking advantage of that in this match. I already mentioned the finish on his goal a couple of times, but if he'd been sharper, he could have had a second goal, after using his pace to get behind the Seattle defense. His shot was on target, but Sounders' 'keeper, Stefan Frei made a nice save. The thing that got me most excited about Zardes' play was his ability to beat guys in the midfield and unbalance the defense. On several occassions he used his quickness to beat two, or even three, Seattle defenders and run at the back four. Those types of runs are going to pay off in spades as defenses scramble to neutralize LA's DP trio.

Negatives:

  • Suspect goalkeeping: As much as I love Donovan Ricketts, he was a little scary between the pipes on the day. With the score tied 1-1, he came off of his line on a free kick and failed to win the ball, resulting in an apparent goal. Luckily the goalscorer was offside on the play. Later in the match he failed to corral a cross, spilling it to another Seattle attacker who looked like he had slotted the ball home only to have Robbie Rogers clear it off the line (incidentally, Rogers should get credit for a solid game against Seattle). The question now is whether or not Ricketts is going to be a liability for the team. He can be an intimidating presence in goal, but he's injury prone, and has also been susceptible to mental gaffs over the past couple of years. He's got to do better than he did in this match, or he'll end up costing LA points down the stretch.
  • Defensive organization: As I said in the introduction, the big concern for this LA squad is who is going to defend from the midfield. As has been the case recently, LA's defensive organization looked suspect, and after the match the announcers were talking about how the team looked vulnerable to a squad like Vancouver. Arena and his staff have got to figure this one out. They've got to figure out how to cover for Gerrard... they've got to ensure that Lletget and Zardes both get back to help out. This isn't a small problem. It's something that could be a real liability in the playoffs when defenses stiffen and goals are harder to come by.
  • Spotty intensity: This goes hand in hand with the poor defensive organization that I talked about above. LA's back four, while potentially very good, showed a lack of focus and intensity in this match. As a matter of fact, they were very lucky to not be punished. The usually dependable Omar Gonzalez had a gaff for the ages, when he sent a very soft touch in the direction of Ricketts only to give a Seattle attacker and easy one-on-one with the lanky 'keeper. Luckily for LA neither Clint Dempsey or Obafemi Martins were available to take the shot, and Ricketts pulled off what, in the end, was a fairly routine save. Once again, this lack of intensity and mental focus will bite this team unless it is eliminated.
So while it's great that LA were able to grab three points at home against a Western Conference rival, there is still plenty of reason for concern.  An exciting and potent attack can only take the squad so far. Unless the team can tighten up their defense and learn to play more effectively with one-another, they may well get knocked off in the playoffs.

On the other hand, at the mid-point of the season, there were questions as to whether or not this sqaud would even make the playoffs. With that in mind, strap in, because the last ten games of the season are going to be a very exciting ride. If LA gets their defensive weaknesses ironed out, they should make a late push for the Supporters' Sheild. If not, there may be a lot of high-scoring ties and losses.