View from 108:
My open Letter to Landon Donovan and the LA Galaxy:
I know this team is capable of winning without you, but right now they need to have a solid presence in the locker room telling them everything is going to be alright! They need to know that despite the lack of mid season moves, that Bruce Arena thinks this team is good enough to win the cup. Everyone in the locker room has to believe it. They can’t be worried if one little mistake will lead to the losing the game. They just need to put their head down and charge after every game like it is their last.
This team is capable of being the best team in the league, but only if they can settle on a singular goal – a unifying theory that will be able to carry them through the rest of these tough games. As our Captain you must be able to provide them with that mindset. You must beat into them every day on the practice field what they are working towards. Landon, you need to remind everyone what it felt like standing on the field in Seattle last year watching another team hold up the MLS Cup.
The playoffs are coming and it’s the team with the best form who wins this thing. Major League soccer is really all about the final ten games. Salt Lake was an 8 seed when they won the whole thing. Teams that you have played earlier in the season are completely different now. They have been infused with world class talent and confidence. This confidence will mean that they won’t fear you, and they will know that they can beat you.
Landon it is up to you to return the swagger to Los Angeles. To bring back the confidence in the way we play soccer. When we played Seattle at the Home Depot Center this year, the team played its best game. The passing was crisp. The possession was everlasting. You shot when you needed to and you passed when you could. The reason you beat Seattle that day was because you were the better team both physically and mentally. Be that mental edge Landon. If you start thinking like a champion, if you start believing, like we did at the beginning of the season, no one in this league can touch us.
But most importantly Landon, spark this city with passion. We know you can make amazing things happen on the soccer field. We know you can defy logic with your ability to score late goals. Let Los Angeles and the fans send you Toronto.
We believe. Now it’s time for the team to believe again!
Los Angeles Galaxy at San Jose Earthquakes
If you really want to get down to it, you can blame a defensive misstep from Donovan Ricketts. His inability to grab hold of an easy ball played toward the back post of the Galaxy goal and his indecisiveness during that play allowed Chris Wondolowski to score easily. That put our LA boys firmly behind the eight ball from the very first minutes and allowed San Jose to play defense, defense, defense.
Throughout the rest of the game the Galaxy seemed to be able to win the center of the field. Unlike the Fox Sports West announcers I found the Galaxy Defense and midfield to be much more than San Jose could handle. The real problem with the Galaxy this week was their inability to finish shots in the final third.
Sean Franklin had a great chance from just outside the Penalty Spot in the ninth minute that took a deflection off of Chris Birchall and caromed over the bar. Magee and Donovan each had real scoring opportunities one in the twenty seventh minute and one in the thirty eighth minute. With the first chance Jon Busch, the San Jose Keeper, cut down the angle beautifully and forced Magee to hit a ball later than he wanted too and with his weaker foot. But Landon Donovan’s chance was a clear breakaway. Edson Buddle broke up a pass coming from the central defense of the Quakes that sprung Donovan free. He raced into the box alone only to hit a left footed strike directly at Busch. These were hard fought chances, that easily spoiled consistent offensive buildups.
Landon wouldn’t see another real scoring opportunity until the 74th minute when he hit a shot on a full volley with his left foot that was expertly saved by Busch again. The final nail in the coffin for LA was when Buddle missed an absolute sitter on a beautifully pushed in pass from Alex Cazumba. Buddle was only 5 yards from the goal and somehow the ball managed to get over the bar never sniffing the net.
But let’s give San Jose some credit. They scored early and were able to put everyone behind the ball. Their scoring chances for the rest of the game relied on quick counter attacks with very little midfield support. Really, they stole the Galaxy’s game plan.
The Galaxy midfield played well and Juninho is really turning into the best player on the field for the Galaxy. Sure he occasionally gets caught going the wrong direction or tries to be a little too creative when sitting in the middle of the field, but his vision and his ability to find the open player is the fuel this offense runs on. If only the boys could actually finish a ball directed at them, the score would have looked much different. The bottom line is that the midfield did its job. Chris Birchall was consistent, took up space and defended well. You always know what you are going to get from him and he certainly didn’t disappoint.
However, I am beginning to get concerned with this team’s ability to fight for games. This is not a roster that can give up early goals and then find themselves on top at the end of the game. Realistically, if they go down a goal early all we can hope for is a tie. This is exactly the case in the Earthquakes game at the Home Depot Center in July. Go down a goal early, end up with a tie. However, San Jose really exposed the weakness of the Galaxy team. There is no creativity from the forwards and Landon Donovan has not been himself since he returned from the World Cup.
I don’t want to hear that Landon is tired. The Galaxy, after being eliminated from every tournament they were involved in, have had ample time to rest players. This week consisted of one game and a quick flight in the same time zone. Donovan has looked uninterested, slow, and is having a run of bad form. He is giving balls away in the midfield, and failing to score on realistic chances he would have made last year. I just don’t get it. And perhaps maybe Landon doesn’t understand it either.
Realistically the Galaxy should have made a move for a solid striker. This team is far from perfect and their biggest gap is in finishing. You can’t ask Edson Buddle to do it all. And Mike Magee is just not a viable option in my opinion. Tristan Bowen is still too young to have to shoulder the entire goal scoring load and moving anyone else up there will be a lesson in futility.
We have to start thinking of the playoffs. Right now the Galaxy would get bounced in the first round. I don’t care who they play. They can’t finish and they make weird mental mistakes that always seem to end up as goals. It’s time to start playing like we were at the beginning of the year. Crisp passing and timely goal scoring. If the Galaxy can return to form they are by far the best team in Major League Soccer!