The LA Galaxy had a rare opportunity on Sunday. Win against Dallas, and they could finally unseat the Seattle Sounders atop the league standings. But despite going up one – nil in the first half, FC Dallas fought back to send LA home with a loss.

It would be easy to blame this result on absences. When you’re missing a goal scorer like Robbie Keane, you’re going to need to find goals somewhere else. When you’re missing a playmaker like Marcelo Sarvas, you’re going to need an entire midfield line to step up.

For the first 30 minutes, the Galaxy looked up to the task. LA dominated possession and, despite looking tepid in the final third, managed to take the early lead. In the 22nd minute, Stefan Ishizaki took a page out of Keane’s book with a chip that soared over Dallas keeper Chris Seitz and landed in the back corner of the far side of the goal.

“We had two guys in the right spot to do it and he made a great move to get by them. I tried to take an aggressive angle and it was an amazing goal.”
—Chris Seitz

The goal served as a statement by Ishizaki, who hasn’t seen the starting lineup since mid-September. But whatever case the Swede made for moving up the depth chart would’ve been much stronger without LA’s dismal second half showing.

If the Galaxy were dragging by the end of the first 45, they came out of halftime looking downright sluggish. Although LA maintained a lead in possession, Dallas was playing a different game — emphasizing quick counterattacks to take advantage of the Galaxy’s disorganized back line.

The tactic paid off. In the 52nd minute, Dallas midfielder Andrés Escobar fed forward David Texeira a sharp through-ball to put him behind LA’s back line. While the Galaxy scrambled to recover, Texeira beat Jaime Penedo with a low shot to the near post.

“Everyone knows that [Andrés Escobar] is a skilled player, right? With his skill, when he has the ball one-on-one with a defender, I expect that he will beat them. I focus on that. He will get the ball. He will send in the cross. He will assist me.”
—David Texeira

The goal marked a shift in momentum — in Dallas’s favor. LA suffered at stringing together passes, especially in the final third, and it was clear the 1–1 scoreline wasn’t going to hold.

Dallas finally got their go-ahead goal in the 87th minute. Somehow, despite the Galaxy having nearly every player back on defense, FC managed to get a shot off a throw-in. And when Penedo’s parry went right to the head of Fabian Castillo, the Dallas midfielder wasted no time making LA pay.

“That game sort of had 1–1 written all over it after their goal. We just had a series of mistakes, and that one play lead to a goal so it’s frustrating. […] It’s better to have a wake-up call now than to lose in the playoffs.”
—Landon Donovan

There are just two games left in LA’s regular season, both against the Seattle Sounders. The Supporters’ Shield will be decided in these two games — which makes next week’s home bout (nearly) a must-win for the Galaxy.

“That’s fine,” said head coach Bruce Arena, when asked about this pivotal pair of matches. “We know what is ahead of us.”

 

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