The LA Galaxy have not lost a match in a little less than two months, but they seem to like flirting with disaster. They managed to come back from a two goal deficit in the final ten minutes to secure a home draw.
It was an odd match, with plenty of excitement and controversy. That, of course, means there's plenty to talk about.
Another come-from-behind result: In both of the past two weeks, LA have managed to come back from giving up the first goal to secure the draw. This week was more spectacular, as New York looked to have sewn up the game with their second goal. However, the Galaxy didn't panic. Arena brought in a couple of subs (Mike Magee and Emmanuel Boateng) and the team pushed forward with a little more intensity, but they didn't really get away from what they had been doing for much of the match. They were still patient in the build-up, and they tried to work the ball forward on the wings and get it into the middle.
The difference between the final ten minutes and the rest of the match was mostly in the finishing. Magee showed his composure, passing home a simple ball in traffic to score the first goal.
Ashley Cole scores: The second, and tying goal, came off the left foot of Cole. He too showed composure, taking a deflected cross off his chest at the far post, waiting for the ball to settle, and the slotting it home back across the goal face.
It was great to see Cole score. He has been a wonderful addition to the Galaxy, at a reasonable price. His poise has really helped the squad's possession out of the back, and he reads the game very well, often coming from wide positions to snuff out attacks in the middle. It was great to see the veteran England international get rewarded for his hard work with a goal... especially a game-tying goal in the 89th minute.
Brian Rowe: Despite giving up two goals, Rowe continue to instill confidence in his back line with his strong play. He had five saves on the night, including a great double-save in the 82nd minute to keep the game close. In addition, he did a great job controlling his body on two non-penalty calls in the last ten minutes of the match. On the first, Rowe came out and went to ground, making himself big as the Red Bull attacker raced him to the ball. Rowe kept his hands between the ball and the goal, never reaching around where the attacker could drag his feet into the hands in order to draw contact.
The second was similar in that both he and the defender were racing towards a through ball into space.Once again, there was no flailing from Rowe. He arrived at the ball at essentially the same moment as the attacking player, and the call, quite honestly, could have gone either way. It's tough to tell whether or not Rowe got a touch on the ball in the replay, but there was very little contact with the player. You could even argue that the attacker kicked through Rowe to get the ball.
Watching Jesse Marsch's head explode: All that being said, one of the most enjoyable aspects of this match was watching the NYRB coach constantly screaming at the refs. He was clearly keyed up before the match even started, and ignored every call that went in favor of his team while becoming more and more belligerent with each call against his squad.
The irony of all of this is that Marsch, as a player, was about as hard-nosed as they come and loved to get away with hard fouls and as much gamesmanship as he could muster. He also coaches his team to play that way, which has resulted in a squad that concedes the third-most fouls in the league (13.3 fouls per game, compared to LA's 11).
All of this, of course, lead to Marsch's complaining about the refereeing at half time, and becoming increasingly agitated in the second half until he was tossed from the match, only to see LA pull back the tying goal in the final minute of regulation play.
Giving up goals: After giving up only two goals in the previous six matches, LA have now given up three goals in the past two. In this match, we saw a return to the mental lapses and lack of intensity that had lead to failures earlier in the year. On the first goal, Daniel Steres allowed the NYRB attacker to run past him onto a through ball and slot it home.
The second goal was more disturbing, as the LA defense allowed a pocket of space to open up inside the penalty box, and the Red Bull attacker had time to take a touch and pick out his spot in the corner of the goal with no defender closing him down.
That goal appeared to be a little miscommunication between A.J. DeLaGarza and Steres, so it's hard to tell exactly who is at fault. However, these issues need to be resolved.
Lack of sharpness: The two goals that LA conceded were partially due to a lack of sharpness in the team's defending, and those two instances weren't the only examples. Rowe's strong play (mentioned above) was necessary due to other instances of NYRB players getting in behind the defensive line.
In addition, the team was not good on the attacking end of the pitch. There were lots of careless passes in the midfield that led to turn-overs, and there were several opportunities before conceding the first goal that could (and maybe "should") have been converted.
During this season, LA has lived and died on the ability to convert their chances at a higher rate than their opponents. They have the fewest shots-per-game in the league (10.36) but are tied for the highest goals-per-game (1.68). On the flip side, despite being out-shot in most games this season, LA have given up the second-fewest goals of any team (22).
So while, technically, two goals in a game should be enough for LA to get the win, the lack of clinical finishing in the first eighty minutes of the match ended up putting more pressure on the defense. Had they put away one of those early chances, the game would have looked very different.
Lack of energy: Finally, the Galaxy just did not look all that energetic on the evening. Red Bull players were out-competing their counter-parts, being more physical, working harder, and winning more 50-50 balls.
We've seen stretches of play like this from LA throughout the season, and they still need to figure out how to manage their energy better, and be more competitive when it counts.
Of course, a 2-2 draw against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference is not a bad result, however it also isn't what the team should be aspiring to.