There was a lot to learned from the Galaxy's first competitive match of 2015. For starters, the Steven Gerrard and Nigel de Jong central midfield tandem got off to a great start. As I demonstrated in this article, Nigel de Jong gets on the ball often, as you can see in this combined pass and defensive action map. Not only did de Jong do a good job in circulation, but he also had 4 defensive actions in the game (triangles on the map) , three of which came around the top of the box , displaying his talent for protecting the back line.
Gerrard also had a good night. As you can see, he got on the ball often, created 3 chances, and tallied 4 defensive actions.
The main problem with the LA Galaxy attack, was their inability to create in the final third. Here is a map of all of the Galaxy's key passes in the game (yellow squares at the origin of the pass, with yellow lines to where the shot was taken) and shots which are represented by circles (red are shots off-target while green are shots on target). I'm combining the two categories so you can see which passes lead to which shots. As you can see, the Galaxy only created one sshot from around the box. The other two are corners
The problem here was two fold. On one end, Emmanuael Boateng was not getting enough touches.
On the other end, Bruce opted to play it safe and play Giovani dos Santos as a striker and Gyasi Zardes as a winger, despite his stated intentions of playing Gio on the wing this year. Unsurprisingly, this set-up was as anemic as it was at the end of last season when Bruce stubbornly road it to an early playoff exit. As you can see, Giovani dos Santos created 0 chances from the run of play and had few touches of the ball.
Bruce's thinking behind this set up has always been that he believes Gyasi to be a better defender, so this was clearly a cautionary move on his part. While some may argue this is smart management given the importance of not giving up a road goal, I would point out that the basic premise that Gyasi Zardes is a good defender, is a flawed one, and we certainly saw that last night. Last night, Gyasi Zardes tallied only a single tackle on the night, while Giovani dos Santos, who Bruce has been unwilling to trust to defend the flank, had two tackles and a blocked shot.
Furthermore, when you look at the combined key pass and shot map for Santos, the majority of their chances came down the side Zardes was defending.
Bruce's adjustment appears to have been the wrong call, and not playing their most attacking formation at home may come back to bite the Galaxy when now that they are facing the prospect of having to get goals in Mexico (where we'll probably see the same set up with Gyasi out-wide).
On the whole, however, there is a lot to be positve about from this game, especially since the Galaxy's chance creation problem should be alleviated when Bruce goes back to his plan of playing Giovani dos Santos as a winger in the regular season. The competive debut of the Gerrard/de Jong tandem was a strong one,which should give Galaxy fans hope that Bruce Arena has rebuilt the spine of this team to a point that it can be competitive in a fearsome western conference.