Photo by Nigel Brooks (@DomsDisciples)

KEANE FAILS TO SHINE IN DIAMOND – LA GALAXY VS HOUSTON (TACTICAL ANALYSIS)

One of these days, I’m going to get to analyze a victory. That’s the goal anyway. Unfortunately, that day is not today because today I have the unhappy task of performing yet another postmortem on an LA Galaxy collapse. So let’s start at the beginning, shall we—the formation.

Bruce Arena made all of us analysts who were expecting Gyasi Zardes and Leonardo to get the start look silly by rolling out a quasi 4-3-3 4-4-2 diamond formation with Robbie Keane playing the role of the CAM. In fact, I was so convinced we would see a Zardes start that I tweeted a Zardes related question to one Adam Serrano long before the line-ups came out. Much to my surprise, Zardes did not make the field, and much to my embarrassment, my question somehow made it to air.

But let’s get back to the formation. Now I must admit, when the lineups were announced, I was pretty ecstatic. I even boldly predicted a 2-0 victory with goals from Keane and Samuel—man, sometimes I wonder why people listen to me. Anyway, after looking back at the stats and the charts, and hindsight being 20-20 and all, I’m reversing my position on this formation. Robbie Keane is not a CAM, and I believe the stats reflect that.

Bruce Arena made all of us analysts who were expecting Gyasi Zardes and Leonardo to get the start look silly by rolling out a quasi 4-3-3 4-4-2 diamond formation with Robbie Keane playing the role of the CAM.

Robbie Keane only completed 69% of his passes, was tackled off the ball 14 times and managed only 1 key pass. As a CAM, he dropped much deeper into the midfield, as can be seen in his heat map.

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Robbie Keane is undoubtedly our biggest goal scoring threat, yet playing so far back in the midfield severely limited his goal scoring chances, as he only managed a measly 2 shots on goal.

This was also not the fluid diamond that the LA Galaxy have been playing for the last few weeks, as there was relatively no positional swapping between Keane and the forwards, as can be seen in the complete absence of runs from Robbie Keane to the right hand side, which was occupied by Samuel.

Robbie Keane only completed 69% of his passes, was tackled off the ball 14 times and managed only 1 key pass.

If we are to continue playing Keane as a CAM, then he must swap early and often with Samuel in order to confuse defenses and get Robbie Keane closer to goal, where he is most dangerous.

Another problem with our offense is that Baggio Husidic simply isn’t making enough key passes. Baggio has been an utter beast when it comes to keeping possession with a pass success rate of 87% in this game, but he managed only a single key pass all game, and with the midfield losing Landon Donovan and his average of nearly 3 key passes a game, Baggio needs to start taking more risks with his passes. And I know he has it in him. Creative passes were a specialty of his back when he played for Chicago. In short, Keane and Husidic had a combined total of 2 key passes, while Stefan Ishizaki, alone, had 5. Stefan can’t be expected to bear the load of being the lone chance creator in the mid, so the rest of the midfield needs to step up.

Speaking of stepping up, how about those subs? It seems like the stellar performances of Raul Mendiola and to a lesser extent, Robbie Rogers, are all anyone is talking about. Let’s start with Rogers. Despite what the haters think (you know who you are), Robbie had a decent outing. He completed 75% of his passes and managed the same number of key passes in 30 minutes that Baggio managed in 70 minutes. He was tackled off the ball 4 times, which needs to be improved, but when you compare this to Zardes, who was tackled off the ball 9 times and had a dismal pass success rate of 61%, I’d say he’s a preferable option. Of course, the big thing I’d like to see out of Rogers is shots. Rogers is a proven goal scorer from distance in this league, and the LA Galaxy are struggling to score goals from outside the box, so it’s an element of his game that could help us a lot. For whatever reason, be it confidence or coach’s instructions, Rogers didn’t take a single shot. This has to change in the future.

Robbie (Rogers) had a decent outing. He completed 75% of his passes and managed the same number of key passes in 30 minutes that Baggio managed in 70 minutes.

Raul Mendiola, on the other hand, stepped onto the field with all the confidence and swagger one would expect from a 19 year old kid tearing it up in the lower divisions, and in his debut, he did not disappoint. Unlike Rogers, who played timidly, Mendiola was aggressive and looked to dribble past his defender on 4 occasions, succeeding twice. Also unlike Rogers, the kid was hungry for a goal, taking two shots and nearly scoring with one of them.

Unlike Gyasi Zardes, who is also known for putting defenders on their heels and constantly looking to take shots, Mendiola had a pass success rate of 88%, and the shots he took were smart. Mendiola was a bright spot in a truly ugly game, and if he can keep it up, he definitely deserves consideration for a starting spot. For now, however, Mendiola looks to be a killer sub.

Mendiola had a pass success rate of 88%, and the shots he took were smart.

Finally, I’d like to address the impressive performance of the Opare-Meyer tandem. For starters, the tandem complimented each other well, with Meyer taking the lead in terms of distribution, making 41 passes with a success rate of 70%, while Kofi Opare made only 18 passes. Kofi Opare took the lead in terms of the defensive dirty work, with 23 clearances to Meyer’s 10, 5 tackles won to Meyer’s 2 and 4 interceptions to Meyer’s 1. Most importantly, there were no major defensive lapses from either of these two. It certainly gives Bruce a lot to think about when it comes to future team selection, and I guess we will soon find out just how irrational his Leonardo fixation is, once he returns from injury.