Before I actually break into the numbers and stats, let me just point out some observations from the game on Saturday.
Edson Buddle: It’s time for a shake up to the starting XI. Buddle looked lost, confused and unable to either hold up the play or provide for his strike partner. He is showing a genuine lack of interest, and his lack of hustle has caused Robbie Keane to receive the ball so deeply that he can’t run onto balls played by the midfield.
Chad Barrett: When Chad Barrett finally came into the game, there was a definite change. Barrett, either knows how to play with Robbie Keane, or just puts in the hustle that is needed to feed the attack. There was enthusiasm and some creativity in the attack with Barrett and that showed when he was set free behind the defense. Ultimately he didn’t finish, and that is the one negative you can put in his column. But if I am making the starting lineup against a Portland team who just lost to Chivas USA at home, I am selecting Barrett over Buddle.
Defense: The improvement in defense during this game was probably the biggest plus for the Galaxy. For the most part they were organized and seemed relatively in control of the situation. The only serious gaffe came in the closing minutes of the 1st half (the worst time to have a defensive lapse). And the blame for that mess up can be laid squarely on someone who should have known better. But ultimately they kept a very explosive Sporting Kansas City team to one goal.
Sean Franklin: Sean Franklin is having a nightmare of a start to this season. And it’s something I have trouble explaining. It was Franklin who lost his mark in the only KC Goal. In fact, Franklin was running in the opposite direction of his mark and it allowed Kei Kamara an open header on goal. Ultimately, Sean has go to do better, but I expect he knows that. I also expect that he will correct his early season mistakes.
Midfield: With the absence of David Beckham, I was hoping for a more ground based attack. Michael Stephens continues to step into the defensive midfielder role and is doing a great job of it. The midfield as a whole, with Landon Donovan back in the lineup, did well at recovering on defense and helping out the back four. But they couldn’t link with the strikers. They couldn’t find free flowing passes. The only real, flowing attacks came from an overlapping run by Mike Magee in the first half that should have ended in a Galaxy goal. Magee had his chip of the keeper go just wide of the far post. His miss was compounded by the fact the Galaxy would concede a goal a short time later.
But I need the midfield energy to be more up tempo. Many of the passes they did make were back to the defense to reset the play. I need the midfield and the Strikers to start linking play together, switching the point of the attack, and creating space for shots to be taken.
There were zero shots on goal for the Galaxy. Zero! Sporting did an excellent job to close down the shot taker. Something the Galaxy should be taking notes on. But the Galaxy need to create space for these shots. And they aren’t doing it by playing the ball back to the defense.
David Beckham: Beckham didn’t play in this game due to injury. For you conspiracy theorists out there, you would probably believe that Arena and Beckham are having some sort of argument and this was the ultimate result. However, it’s more likely that small injuries have been mounting for the aging midfielder. Due to previous ailments we know Beckham’s back is a tad problematic. So it is a very real possibility that he was injured enough this week that Bruce thought it best to hold him out of this last game. And yes, it is possible for Beckham to be removed from the game against New England as part of a “coaching decision,” and still have enough of an injury problem to keep him out against Sporting Kansas City. Let’s just keep an eye on the main players in this (Arena, Beckham, Donovan, Keane). They will tell us if there is more to this story.
Despite what the stats say, the Los Angeles Galaxy were in this game. They played a counter attacking style and could have finished two real opportunities. But ultimately goals change things. If the Galaxy score early, SKC had the firepower to be able to score 3 or 4 goals. Or if the Galaxy go into half time at 0-0 maybe they find a way to steal a point or three on the road.
Let’s just see this as a stepping stone and realize the Galaxy ran up against a red hot team.
Portland on Saturday will show how far this team has progressed from the first CCL games against Toronto.
As always, join Jared DuBois and myself Wednesday morning as we will be releasing the latest episode of Corner of the Galaxy.