When your strikers can’t find a goal in 120 minutes of near-total possession, you have a problem. That’s the situation the LA Galaxy found themselves in tonight as they fell 0-1 against recurring US Open Cup spoilers the Carolina Railhawks.
For the third year running, underdogs the Railhawks defeat MLS behemoth LA Galaxy. That’s an easy summary to write, but it’s not the whole story. This is the first year LA brought their A-squad — the first year Carolina faced a full-strength Galaxy lineup.
But that fact only makes the Railhawks’ win all the more commendable. On the backs of stellar performances from defender Austin King and keeper Scott Goodwin, Carolina held fast against wave after wave of LA attacks. When full time ended with the scoreboard empty, the clearly-exhausted sides threw themselves into two 15 minute periods of overtime.
The Galaxy continued to pummel Carolina’s backline, until finally the Railhawks found an opening: Nick Zimmerman lofted the ball to Daniel Jackson, who caught LA’s backline off guard and sprinted toward the goal. Keeper Jaime Penedo was caught one-on-one, and wasn’t up to the challenge — Jackson fired the game-winner into the back of the net.
“We had enough chances to win the game. When you have that many shots on goal, and chances and don’t put them away then you keep teams in it.” Dave Sarachan, Assistant Head Coach, LA Galaxy
Hapless. Uncreative. Out-of-sync. And I can think of a few other words too. If you weren’t having serious doubts about the 2014 LA Galaxy before tonight, it’s time to start.
Robbie Rogers – perhaps the lone bright spot of the night – launched cross after cross into the box. Crosses to nowhere, unfortunately, as LA’s strikers were never in the right place or even making the right runs. It was the story of the night: Nobody crashing the box. Nobody crashing the far post. Nobody running clean-up when the keeper (repeatedly) fumbles a save. How many minutes does it take LA’s offense to realize they should try to get on the end of a cross? I don’t know, but it’s more than 120.
“I think 99 times out of 100, we win that game. They had everything go their way tonight. They played well, they defended well, their goalie had one of the best performances I’ve ever seen, and they got the goal that they needed.” Landon Donovan, LA Galaxy
Even as I type this I know it’s harsh. Maybe overly harsh. The Galaxy had a bad night in Raleigh. They aren’t the first MLS team to fall to NASL opponents in this tournament. And they may not be the last. The Railhawks played a very defensive game. Any team with 7 or 8 players behind the ball is going to be hard to break, and LA couldn’t find a way through.
For a team with playoff aspirations, a game like this had better be a wake-up call. The 2014 LA Galaxy need to be reworked, retooled, and rethought if they’re to have any shot at success in MLS. On Saturday the Galaxy head to San Jose to square off against the Earthquakes, and we’ll see whether Bruce Arena can find a way to make this team work.