Before we get into discussing this match, I just have to say that it's tough to get excited about mid-season MLS play with the European Championships and the Copa America both still being played. I watched large portions of six soccer matches today, and this was the worst of them.
I give MLS some credit for taking a break during the group stages of the Copa America, but it's really too bad that the two international tournaments couldn't have been synchronized a little better, and MLS couldn't have stayed on hiatus for one more week.
I guess that's neither here not there, as the Galaxy traveled to Toronto, and both undermanned teams looked pretty lifeless in a 0-1 loss for the visitors. So let's see what we can take away from this match.
- We're not Mexico: Just to put this result in perspective, shortly after the match finished, Mexico took on Chile in the Copa America quarterfinals. Mexico was on a streak of 22 matches without a loss, and had only given up two goals in their last ten matches. Chile, on the other hand, are the defending Copa America champions, having won it at home last year. The Chilean's may well have had a chip on their collective shoulder, as Mexico got a top seed in the tournament, and they did not. They, helpfully, showed the seeding committee the error of their ways by thrashing Mexico by a score of 7-0. The 70k+ pro-Mexico crowd turned on their own players, with chants of "Ole!" as Chile danced around them. As Galaxy fans, we need to remember how much it can hurt our team to turn on them when things don't go well, and conversely, how much it can help to support them after a tough loss like tonight.
- We're not Christiano Ronaldo: So while that was happening here in the Americas, Portugal and Austria were battling it out in the Euros (well, technically that happened earlier in the day, but we can pretend for the sake of the narrative). Portugal had disappointingly tied Iceland in their opening match and came out with something to prove in this one. Christiano Ronaldo played with an intensity that got him 10 shots and a drawn PK. Unfortunately for the the arrogant underwear model, he couldn't convert any of his chances (even the penalty kick, which he bounced off the post). To make matters worse, he scored on a header in the 84th minute that seemed to lift the weight form his shoulders, only to find that he had been in an offside position, and the goal would not count. Undoubtedly, many MLS fans feel the same way about the LA Galaxy as I feel about Ronaldo. Just to clarify, we call him "the weasel" in my house because the way his head and neck are all the same width and seem to meld into his body; but also because he exhibits such a smarmy and entitled personality on the field (and often in post-match interviews). However, the Galaxy did not fail as epicly today as Ronaldo. No, their failure was on a much smaller scale.
- Controlling the run-of-play: As a matter of fact, LA had a pretty decent showing on the field, considering that they were missing all three of their DPs, as well as their home-grown phenom, Gyasi Zardes. Yes, despite that, they did a pretty good job controlling the run-of-play. They had nearly 58% of the possession (including a significant advantage over their opponent in the attacking half and final third). They put their players in dangerous positions, and had their opportunities. Unfortunately, none of those opportunities came to fruition.
- Sebastian Lletget on the ball: Da Boy (as the social media folks call him) started this match as a withdrawn forward, and looked very strong with the ball at his feet. He was able to hold onto possession and give his teammates time to find space. He generated four of the team's ten shots, and created what was, perhaps, the most dangerous chance of the match for LA, when (in the 20th minute) he got behind the Toronto defense only to pull his shot wide. If he could keep his head up a little more, and improve his decision-making, he would be one of the best attacking players in MLS.
- We're not Argentina: Is this one reference too many to the other tournaments? I don't care. We already talked about Chile, but Argentina is a pretty good squad as well. They dispatched Venezuela 4-1 today, and Lionel Messi (in a bit of a quiet game) had a goal and two assists. They were actually out-possessed in the match, but were just so lethal with their talented attackers that the Venezuelan's couldn't hang with them. It is actually quite similar to the Galaxy when they have their full compliment of attacking players. That spark of quality was really missing in tonight's game. There was no one to step up and put the ball in the net for LA. With any luck, Robbie Keane and Zardes will be back with the squad soon, and Giovani Dos Santos will be healthy again. Those three players all have the ability to make something out of nothing in a tight match like this one.
- Ashley Cole's marking: I feel a little bad about singling out Cole in this match. He's been a solid player for LA this year, and I honestly didn't expect much out of the 35-year-old left back who has a reputation as being a little self-absorbed. There s no denying that his quality on the ball has helped LA maintain possession. However, his final ball in the attack is often poor, and he has a tendency to lose concentration when marking an opponent in the box. The latter is what happened on the goal that LA gave up tonight. Cole left Drew Moore for just a fraction of a second, but it was enough for the Toronto defender to get his head on a flicked ball, and send it back across into the far corner of LA's goal. I'm still not sure how this defense will perform for the remainder of the season. I think they have the potential to be quite good, but it's going to require a higher degree of intensity across the board, and fewer mistakes like this one.
- Finishing (or lack thereof): I know I talked about this above, but even without our "finishers," there's no reason this LA team shouldn't be scoring goals. Mike Magee, Lletget, and Alan Gordon should all be able to put the ball on goal (not to mention Jeff Larentowicz, who has a powerful outside shot). Heck, even Bagio Husidic has been known to knock in a few goals here and there. Unfortunately it wasn't happening in this match. The whole team just seemed a little bit tentative , and unwilling to pull the trigger. I think Bruce Arena said something after an earlier match about how this team needs to stop trying to walk the ball into the net. I think that applied to this match a little bit. The's guys just need to take more shots, and make sure they are on frame.
- Losing: It sucks. This is only the third time this year we've had to experience a loss, but that doesn't make it any better.
So to sum things up:
- I'm distracted by the international tournaments going on right now
- We're missing a bunch of players
- We need to play better
Give it a couple weeks, and I think things will start to look up.