Over the past two years, the LA Galaxy has looked like two different teams. At home they have been confident and scored a ton of goals. On the road, the play tentatively and give up late goals to drop points. True to form, after a torrid second-half performance in the home opener last week, LA played an uninspired match against the Colorado Rapids, and gave up a last-second goal to drop all three points in their road opener.
- Daniel Steres: The 25-year-old center back that LA signed from the Galaxy II squad this off-season has been a pleasant surprise for the senior squad in the first two matches of 2016. After scoring a goal in the home opener, he looked solid and confident in the back. He lead the team with eight clearances and threw in an additional four interceptions. These stats compare favorably to his partner in the back, the highly-touted Belgian international Jelle Van Damme, who had a decent performance as well, with four clearances and six interceptions. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Steres' performance was the composure that he displayed. He was solid on the ball, completing a high percentage of his passes out of the back, and keeping his cool against a very physical Kevin Doyle. Steres, who was the captain for Galaxy II last year, looks like an emerging young leader for this squad.
- Brian Rowe: Speaking of young players stepping up, Rowe continues to be a confident back-up for LA. He did a solid job in the back, making seven saves and controlling his area, with eighteen recoveries. He was unlucky to be robbed of the shutout by Marco Pappa's last second stunner.
- Steven Gerrard in the attack: I've been pretty hard on Gerrard for his performances this season, but I thought he was a little better in this match, and it would be unfair to ignore the fact that he produced four key passes (albeit, two on corners and another on a free kick) as well as two shots. He was tidier on the ball than he has been in earlier matches of this young season, and he seemed to be less of a defensive liability. He also, notably, went 90 minutes at altitude, which is a good sign for his fitness. Over-all, it was an improved performance that he can, hopefully, build on.
- Speed off the bench: Emmanuel Boateng was the first player off the bench for Bruce Arena. He came in for Mike Magee in the 67th minute, and immediately made his presence felt, beating a Rapids defender to a ball in the corner, and then winning a corner kick. He won a second corner a few minutes later (although he took it poorly, feeding it to right to the Colorado goalkeeper). I think the role of a late-game sub to run at tired defenders is perfect for Boa. While his final ball is suspect, and he lacks the refinement of Sebastian Lletget on the ball, his speed should stretch the field and create space for the attack late in matches.
- Robbie Rogers late game lapse: I really like Rogers and what he brings to the defense, but there's little question that he's a had a rough opening to the 2016 season. He had a really poor game on the night, completing only about half of his passes. In addition, his lack of concentration in the final seconds of the game cost LA a point on the road. He did a good job sliding over to close down Pappa in the midfield, but then let the Guatemalan striker make a late unmarked run in to the box and smash home a deflected ball for the winning goal. It's unfair to blame the loss entirely on Rogers, but if he had just been a little more focused, and stayed with the runner, he almost certainly could have cleared that ball over the end-line with his head, or at the very least thrown off the attacker with a little contact. Those types of mental lapses make all the difference in MLS, and unfortunately for Rogers, he's this week's example of "what not to do" if you want to be a champion.
- Gyassi Zardes' lack of possession: Zardes is another player that hasn't had a good start to the season. The young US international hasn't looked altogether bad, but he hasn't been as decisive as he needs to be, and his touch has seemed to let him down on too many occasions. In tonight's match, while he did pretty good work on defense, and did manage to take on some players in the attacking half, he simply couldn't hold on to the ball. By my count, he completed only thirteen out of twenty-eight passes (less than 50%), and more importantly, gave away a number of balls in dangerous locations. Zardes has to be better on the ball, and help LA to hold onto possession in tough road matches like this one.
- The invisible man: Unfortunately, Zardes wasn't the only attacking player to have an off night. Magee failed to replicate his stellar performance in the home opener, but more disturbingly, Robbie Keane was a non-factor in the match. Ireland's all-time leading goalscorer was tidy on the ball, completing more than 90% of his passes. However he failed to make any real impact on the match, only touching the ball twelve times, with eleven passes and one shot. This early in the year, it's hard to tell if this is just a temporary dip in form, or if father time is finally catching up with Keane and robbing him of that little additional quickness and sharpness on the ball that has always been his great strength. Let's hope that it's the former (pun intended).
- Lack of attacking cohesion: Perhaps the biggest concern for LA moving forward this season is the lack of a cohesive attack. The squad continues to look like none of the players are on the same page. They allowed Colorado to have nearly 60% of possession in the match, and really only looked threatening on set pieces (one of which, Van Damme slammed off the crossbar in the first half). It's hard to understand what happened to the free-flowing attack that this squad exhibited last July. They were scoring goals in bunches, and creating chance after chance. The team now looks tentative and has trouble working the ball through the midfield. They get trapped in tight spaces on the sidelines and try to dribble through opponents or win fouls rather than working the short-short-long combinations that tend to open up space. There is also little-to-no fluidity in their transition game. When was the last time that we saw this team put together a well-orchestrated counter-attack? The bottom line is that these players need to gel, and to establish an attacking identity. It continues to be frustrating to watch so many talented guys on the field together who are unable to consistently create dangerous chances.