Frustration reigns supreme in Carson. Frustration from the players, and frustration from the fans. How could the “Best Team in MLS” be collapsing right in front of our eyes. The Los Angeles Galaxy don’t look good enough to beat anyone in the league right now. And it seems that every week we have a different person not being able to make the starts. If something doesn’t change quickly the Galaxy are looking at a very early exit from the Playoffs!
Los Angeles Galaxy vs Kansas City Wizards
The two most notable absences came from Gregg Berhalter and Juninho. Berhalter is still recovering from a viral infection. But his presence on the back line was sorely missed. He organizes the defense and keeps the younger players in check and in control. Without Berhalter on the line the Galaxy seem to have lapses in judgment and marking. Leonardo took the place of the Bundesliga veteran and was involved in some touchy plays and may be partially at fault for the early goal that was allowed. I can’t say that he had a horrible game, but the defense just never seems to settle down without the on looking eyes of Berhalter.
The other large absence was missing Juninho from the center midfield position. Juninho is the the life blood of the offense. He distributes through the middle of the field well, and allows players like Michael Stephens and Landon Donovan to stretch the field wide. Instead Chris Klein, a wily veteran got the nod for the Galaxy on the right midfield slot. Juninho had to miss this game, and possible the next game because of Visa issues. The front office is hopeful that it can be cleared up by next game, but in all likelihood the Galaxy will be without there center midfielder for another game.
The team has said they are concentrating on not giving up the early goals, but in each of the last two games they have allowed a ball to find the back of the net early in the game. Bruce Arena can claim that everyone in the league has a good record when scoring first, and that it it a useless stat, but not letting your opponent score allows a team to execute their game plan. This in turn leads to better chances to win the game. Don’t fall behind early, and you don’t have to worry about chasing the game!
The scoring opened up on a play that could have easily been stopped because of a blatant foul on Kansas City striker Kei Kamara directly in front of the Assistant Referee. “It was a foul but we still could have made the play,” Dunivant said. Despite the missed play it was lax defending in the middle that eventually led to Kamara slotting a pass to Davey Arnaud who slipped the ball underneath Donovan Ricketts. Chris Birchall was slow in marking Arnaud who was able to redirect the ball into the net. It only took KC thirteen minutes to exploit a leaderless defense into coughing one up and once again relegating the boys into chasing the game for the remainder of the night.
The biggest issue with playing from behind is that the trailing team has to involve more players in the offense to push for a goal (Soccer 101… I know). This in turn leads to the offensive team pushing more players forward and therefore allows for counter attacks. Kansas City, unlike previous teams who have gone up early on the Galaxy, continued to support their counter attacks well. If not for Donovan Ricketts, who made two magical saves on Kansas City striker Diop, the score would have been much worse. But both chances were probably the result of LA having to push too far forward in trying to equalize.
The final goal of the game, that effectively put a stake through the heart of Galaxy fans, but seemed to have relatively little effect on the team, came about on a set piece from about 40 yards away from goal. Davey Arnaud whipped the free kick in towards the Galaxy six yard box. Edson Buddle played well enough defense on the play to keep Jimmy Conrad from getting his head on it, but inexplicably it found Conrad’s foot and somehow dodged and dived its way just inside the the post. At the beginning of the year it was Los Angeles who was able to get the bounces. In this case, hard work led to luck and Conrad was the recipient in the seventieth minute.
The Galaxy really should have been able to pull at least one goal back. But where the shots came form might surprise you. The defensive midfielder, who shows unbelievable hustle every game was really the sole carrier of the Galaxy chances. Chris Birchall, who is still looking for his first MLS goal, was denied twice by KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen. Both shots should have found the netting. But that is just he way things have gone for Birchall this year. But he will keep trying and he better, because no one else seems to have the nose for goal.
Mike Magee, who started up top with Edson Buddle was mostly absent in this game. He did have 2 or 3 chances inside the box, that he failed to do anything with. While Magee may be great at playing off the ball, his finishing and his creativity are sorely lacking in what has become the most blatant hole on the team. With 2nd striker choices whittled down to Mike Magee and Tristan Bowen, we have seen teams make sure and put bodies on Edson Buddle in order to force the ball to the other side. Both Magee and Bowen have failed to impress and failed to score. This is definitely something to watch as we get closer to the playoffs.
Another issue is the complete absence of our captain. Granted this week he was playing out of position in the center midfield slot, but he really hasn’t shown that killer instinct and that determination since before he left for the World Cup early this summer. The reports are that he is tired, but I have to think there is something else going on here. He is failing to connect with his teammates. He doesn’t seem to be leading them like he has in the past. Here’s to hoping that something wakes him up and quickly. I can’t make excuses for him anymore. In fact, I can’t make excusses for anyone on the team anymore.
This used to be a passionate team. A team that wasn’t afraid to bully someone right off the pitch. They would put the hammer down and wouldn’t let up until the final whistle. The team I see right now is passive, lackadaisical, and afraid to lose. The Galaxy have spent the last four games trying not to lose games, instead of winning them. Until this attitude changes, they will continue to slide backwards down the table. I don’t believe the Galaxy are in danger of missing the playoffs, as that would take a monumental collapse. But an exit in the first round is looking more and more like a certainty. And this from a team that looked to have the supporters shield wrapped up in early July!
The matches don’t get any easier for LA either. They will play Chicago away next week. Then they will have Columbus and New York to look forward to at the Home Depot Center. These next three games are critical.