The Galaxy have hit a string of bad results of late. Luckily, they haven't been losing, but the number of poor performances and lack luster ties are beginning to catch up with them as they sink like a stone in the western conference standings.
But why? Part of the answers can be found in the numbers.
For all their scoring woes, the Galaxy haven't been all that unlucky. Over 16 games, the Galaxy are only 3.92 goals under their expected goals total, which means they are only losing about a goal every 4 games. On the flip side, the Galaxy defense is performing almost exactly where you would expect, with their 19.78 expected goals against lining up nicely with their 18 goals against.
With the Galaxy averaging 1.38 expected goals per game and allowing 1.23 per game, their expected goal differential simply isn't dominant enough to expect this team to be doing anything more than what they are doing, which is tieing a lot of games.
But what can be done to fix this? For one, getting Robbie Keane back should help a ton. This year, Robbie Keane is averaging 0.83 expected goals plus expected assists per 96 minutes (the average length of an MLS match), but has only played 34% of the Galaxy's minutes this year. As he plays more, those offensive numbers should go up as he's often a one man wrecking crew.
Another key piece the Galaxy are missing is someone who is consistently creating high leverage shots. On a team with the likes of Steven Gerrard, Robbie Keane and Giovani dos Santos, the Galaxy have 0 players in the top 10 for expected assists per 96 minutes among players with 500 minutes or more. In fact, their top expected assist men are Gyasi Zardes and Emanuel Boateng who are tied at 0.28 p96.
The Galaxy have to start creating high leverage chances, by which I mean, chances that are finished at a high percentage based on league averages. This means getting players on the ball at the top of the box and playing it in, rather than the recent Galaxy preference of getting the ball wide and crossing it in, from which conversion rates aren't nearly as good.
In 2014, the Galaxy were able to do this by playing a y-midfield with Marcelo Sarvas pushing forward, Landon Donovan making inverted runs and Robbie Keane dropping back, and, while two of those players are gone, we have seen glimpses of the Galaxy of old during their dismantling of RSL earlier this year. Just take a look at this sequence.
It might be time to abandon the largely unproductive 4-3-3 we've seen Bruce run out when Keane, Dos Santos and Zardes are all available and return to the bread of butter of what made this team so great in 2014.
Whatever the solution, it's pretty clear that the Galaxy's current woes aren't a matter of mentality or bad luck. Based on their shot quality and the quality of shots they are giving up, the Galaxy are performing exactly where you would expect them to. Perhaps the numbers will change a bit once Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes rejoin the team, but it's worth noting the Galaxy weren't doing so hot prior to when those 2 left, running a 4-3-3 with forwards who don't defend and a 3 man midfield with a combined age in the 90's, getting outnumbered and over run.
Simply getting players back may not be enough. If the Galaxy want to start climbing the table, they have to start focusing on the types of chances they are most often creating, and the manner they go about creating them. Ultimately, tweaks to the system may need to be made, and the main focus of these tweaks should be getting players into dangerous passing positions centrally and ending far fewer of their possessions in crosses.
If they do that, the goals will come, and the Galaxy will start seeing the fruits of their impressive defense.