There’s a fine line between imposing a style of play and falling victim to ideology.
For a majority of the 2019 MLS season the LA Galaxy have possessed the ball with both fullbacks pushed high up the pitch. The strategy has its benefits but leaves Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s squad exposed on the counter-attack. LA have also developed a habit of conceding late in matches which we addressed ourselves last month.
After a pair of heartbreaking defeats to the Sounders and Rapids, it appeared the former Boca Juniors boss had made the right adjustments to stop the bleeding. Jorgen Sjkelvic was jettisoned in favor of Dave Romney, and with the dependable left back staying at home and playing more conservatively, LA outshot their opponents 11-4 in wins over Sporting Kansas City, Real Salt Lake and the Montreal Impact.
With a home playoff game in their sights, the dam broke as the Galaxy defense conceded eight times in consecutive losses. Worringly, LA gave up goals at the tail end of all four halves!
Despite GBS making the necessary adjustment you can’t get results if your back line can’t make plays, and poor individual moments have played a major role in LA’s recent demise.
The Whitecaps’ shock 4-3 victory was littered with individual mistakes from the defense. Goalkeeper Matt Lampson was indecisive on Vancouver’s opening tally, with his failure to collect five yards from goal allowing Doneil Henry to literally bundle into the net.
20 yard-old Theo Bair was a constant thorn in Romney’s side, as the young Canadian’s ability to beat the left back on the dribble was ultimately the catalyst for their second strike. Worst of all was the Whitecaps’ egregious game-winner when Schelotto’s side lost any semblance of discipline. Only Daniel Steres could be seen on the broadcast as Inbeom Hwang went loose on the breakaway.
After the Vancouver defeat GBS suggested qualifying for the postseason may have relaxed the squad, but LA were similarly culpable in Texas.
Romney was better vs. the Dynamo, but on the opposite flank Rolf Feltscher had an abysmal performance. The Venezulan international is an interesting physical presence, but there are games when Feltscher is susceptible to poor marking and ball watching and Sunday was no exception.
You have to feel for the Galaxy when Houston got on the board in first half stoppage time. Had Joe Corona not been forced out of the match with a toe sprain, there’s an excellent chance the play never culminates. Nevertheless the positioning of Favio Alvarez was off just enough for the Dynamo to break the lines with two quick passes, and Feltscher’s flat feet gifted Alberth Elis the seperation to pick his shot which careened off the post before Ramirez bundled home.
Houston’s equalizer (scroll to 2:25 mark) is tougher to judge Feltscher on with Rolf marking multiple strikers, but looking at the game tape you can imagine Guille will be frustrated the Venezeula elected not to make a play on the shot of Elis. If Feltscher instinctively slides towards the Honduran attacker he likely gets a foot on his attempt or at least puts Elis off a bit.
Ultimately we aren’t the first to address LA’s weakness at the fullback positions. With an expected seven figures of salary cap room to work with this offseason, it would be a shock if Dennis te Kloese doesn’t invest heavily in upgrading both spots.
For now an upcoming trip to St. Paul awaits.