Leading up to the Vancouver Whitecaps match, we were all nervous.  Sure, the Galaxy had dominated a game using a shiny new formation but that was against Chivas USA.  Last Saturday, Los Angeles found itself testing the formation that squashed a bunch of goats against a team that has a better reputation at playing actual soccer – the results were promising.

You can call this formation a diamond – I call it a “diamond.”  Setting up at kickoff in a 4-3-3 formation, the Galaxy was already primed for attacking soccer on paper.  However, the predictability seemed to stop there on Saturday night.  During the run of play, fans were treated to a delightful duet between the midfield and forwards that revealed the true dynamic nature of this setup.

In the 7th minute, Robbie Keane found the Galaxy’s first real chance as he ran wide down the left of the field with a pass from Donovan.  Interestingly, Baggio Husidić roamed from the left wing and was ready to do a quick pass back to Keane from the top center of the box. While not ending in a goal, this play showed Vancouver what they were in for: a dynamic interchange between forwards and midfielders.  It’s a beautiful thing: Robbie Keane decides to roam so, Stefan Ishizaki steps forwards and fills the attacking forward position while other midfielders join the attack.  As a result Vancouver had its hands full while it defensively sorted what player to watch at what time.

After a slightly disappointing first half (including a headed attempt by Donovan that went just wide in the 38th minute), the Galaxy only wasted a minute until deciding to score.  While this goal ended up being the winner, it was also the most exciting thing to watch for Galaxy fans in regards to the development of a new player.  Swedish national Stefan Ishizaki proved the viability of the “diamond” formation as he roamed up the right wing towards Vancouver’s goal.  Ishizaki calmly held the ball against defender Jay DeMerit while Robbie Keane ran from far outside the box to place an absolutely spot-on cross from the Swede in the back of the net.  Stefan Ishizaki is proving to possibly be the player that deserves the most excitement in the Galaxy’s pool of recent signings.  With two solid performances in a row, Ishizaki seems to be transforming into the midfielder fans were hoping for.

A great play by Stefan on the goal. Taking the ball down and getting by [Jay] DeMerit, whipping in a great cross to Robbie Keane. It was a great play. Stefan performed the best of the year. We got close to 80 minutes out of him. He looked a lot better. We think he can certainly continue to get better.
—Bruce Arena, to LAGalaxy.com

Now let’s look at how Robbie Keane became that open right in front of goal – as Ishizaki holds the ball, the midfield and forwards begin to work in the system that the 4-3-3 “diamond” encourages.  As Keane runs to goal, he is surrounded by three Whitecaps defenders – each pull off of him in anticipation of Husidic who is crashing towards center and Donovan who is approaching from the middle of the field.  Not knowing what player to defend, the Whitecaps have a defensive meltdown and Ishizaki’s composure on the ball enables Keane to do what the City of Los Angeles loves to watch him do.

We got a goal. That helped. I think going into half time they were going to hit a wall in the second half. They worked really hard the first 45 minutes. They had to chase the ball a lot. They were going to lose some of that energy in the second half. Certainly, getting that goal early change the game. They can’t sit back and be content. And, the game opened up a little more. We created more chances. Unfortunately, we didn’t get another goal or two.
—Bruce Arena, to LAGalaxy.com

But everything wasn’t perfect – in a game where the Galaxy had three very great chances on goal, the score should have been more than 1-0.  Robbie Keane knows this the best as his attempt to chip Vancouver’s David Ousted went over the crossbar in the 87th minute.  Yet it would be wrong to ignore the shutout the Galaxy’s backline earned against a speedy Whitecaps attack.  Despite recent criticism, Omar Gonzalez managed to have a close to error free game and A.J. DeLaGarza filled in nicely for Todd Dunivant at left back.  Vancouver’s best attempt came from an error by Dan Gargan in the 44th minute that almost gave Kekuta Manneh a goal. Usual heroics from the returning Jaime Penedo stopped any Whitecap hope at victory.  Say it with me: San Penedo para siempre.

Good solid performance. I think in the first half he made a terrific save on [Kekuta] Manneh. A play where [Dan] Gargan misjudged the ball, and that was a big save. He wasn’t tested a whole lot tonight, but that save in the first half was key.
—Bruce Arena, to LAGalaxy.com

Galaxy fanatics, don’t get too comfortable – Vancouver just had a warm-up game against the new “diamond” and will be better prepared defensively when the Galaxy travels to Vancouver on April 19th.  If the Galaxy can finish attempts like the ones they miss and the defense can manage to remain effective, expect more exciting play from your Los Angeles Galaxy when they travel up north looking for the next three points.

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