An injury-depleted LA Galaxy squad slipped out of Kansas City on Sunday evening stealing a point on the road. Despite being dominated on the stats sheet, LA hung on for a 1-1 draw. There's a lot to talk about from this match, both good and bad.
- Grinding out a result: Make no mistake, Sporting KC is one of the better teams in MLS. Sure, they've been on a poor run of form of late, but there's no denying the quality and depth of their squad. In addition, they have been a very strong home team since moving into their new stadium. With all of that in mind, walking away from this match with a 1-1 draw is a great result for LA. This was a match that reminded me of the 2011 LA squad that won both the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup. The team did what they needed to do to get the result. They were dominated in all statistics (we'll talk about that below), but they still seemed to be in control of the match for the entire second half. Yeah... they gave away a few chances, but as the game wore down you never felt like KC had the upper hand. It felt more like LA were steadily doing what they needed to do to get the result. A game like this allows the team to believe in their ability to just do what it takes. The confidence that you can do that when you need to is a key component of a championship-winning side.
- A counter-attacking goal: I complained earlier this year that, since the retirement of Landon Donovan, LA no longer seemed to be dangerous as a counter-attacking team. Gyasi Zardes apparently took issue with that, and launched a brilliant counter-attack that resulted in LA's only goal of the match. Over the past few weeks it seems that this team has come together to start playing more and more like we have come to expect from a Bruce Arena-coached team. Seeing them pull out the bunker-counter tactic and apply it so successfully against a strong team is pretty exciting.
- Testing team depth: Late in the second half of this match, Mike Magee left the field with some tightness in his legs and handed off the captain's armband to A.J. DeLaGarza. I love both Mike and AJ, but let's remember who the captains of this team are: Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard, and Nigel De Jong. That's right, When AJ took the armband he was the fifth choice for captain. How many squads in MLS can you look at and say, "Yeah... they can get a result on the road against a tough in-conference opponent without their top three choices for captain." The great thing is, that as I looked at the lineup card before kick-off, I thought that these guys had the quality to get a win. That's how deep this team is. That depth is going to come in handy this fall as the team heads into their stretch run.
- Giovani Dos Santos: You may have noticed that I didn't mention Gio above when talking about his beautiful counter-attacking goal. I was saving it. Gio has always been a streaky player, and you can tell right now that he is on a great run of form. Yeah, he made a perfect run, touch, and finish on the goal. You can see him just oozing confidence. He was tidy on the ball (14/17 passing) and moved it quickly to his teammates. However, the thing that really got me excited is his play off the ball. He was constantly moving. He was finding space in the attack, and pestering KC when they had possession. In a match like this where the opponents are dominating possession, the conventional wisdom on Gio is that he gets frustrated and disappears. Then when he gets the ball, he tries to do too much. That's not the player that we saw in this match. For the first time since he suited up for LA, I'm starting to really believe that Gio has the potential to get his head in the right place and become a real asset to the squad. Let's hope that's the case.
- Getting dominated: Let's be honest. It's difficult to imagine a game that was more tilted against LA. they were out-shot (17-4), out-possessed (66%-34%), and played two-thirds of the match in their defensive half. No one likes to see those kind of numbers. So while the team was sharp in both boxes, and managed to scrape out the result, it's hard to imagine that the team could do any less and still get a result. So despite the fact that they "did what it takes" to get the result, let's not ignore the fact that there was some luck involved, and if they come out and play like that every match, it's not likely to be a successful season.
- Silly red card: Over-all, Ashley Cole has been a really great acquisition for LA. He has very quietly done his job, helping the team with smart defending and poise on the ball. However, for thirty seconds in the second half, he made a number of really poor decisions that resulted in his ejection from the match. First of all, his time-wasting was just silly. What does that really buy you? Secondly, he went in for a tough tackle immediately following his first yellow card, and then straightened out his leg and put it through the opposing player. It was completely unnecessary. I realize that this was a frustrating match, as SKC are a very physical team, and the ref was letting that kind of play go. However, you can't let that get to you, and Cole knows that. It's disappointing, and he needs to do better.
- Dropping in the standings: Speaking of disappointment, with this draw, the Galaxy dropped to third in the league in points-per-game, and fourth in the Western Conference in points. In the grand scheme of things, this isn't a big deal, but how can we be smug and superior as fans when something like this happens?
- Emmanuel Boateng: Coming off of a player-of-the-week performance, we saw once again why Boateng is such a frustrating young player. Emma was 5/11 passing on the night, and once again looked like he wasn't sure what to do when he couldn't simply run by his defender. He had his moments (including a single key pass), but he also allowed Brad Davis to shove him off the ball and score KC's only goal. He has got to be better and more consistent, if he wants to be a starter for this team.
There's no denying that this was an ugly match if you're a Galaxy fan. However, there's nothing better than an ugly match where your squad steals points from a conference rival. Make no mistake, this was a great result, and bodes well for the future of this squad.