An inconsistent attack and multiple missed opportunities leave LA settling for a draw.
A sold out crowd came to the Stub Hub Center to see Montreal’s recently signed DP, international superstar Didier Drogba, and hoping to witness the kind of dominant performance from the home team that they have come to expect. Unfortunately, the only fireworks were those set off during the singing of the national anthem. Returning to action after a disappointing loss in San Jose on August 28 and following a bye week, the Galaxy offense failed to spark and LA had to settle for one point in their race for the Western Conference championship. LA had scored 37 goals in their last nine games across all competitions at the Stub Hub Center but a stingy Montreal defense held them scoreless at home for only the second time this season.
“It was very frustrating; we weren’t at the races tonight. There was a lack of performance, but full credit to them. They made it hard for us and defended well, but we should have won in the races.”
—LA Galaxy forward Robbie Keane
The opening minutes of the first half saw the Galaxy continue a troublesome habit of allowing the visitors some early opportunities. In just the second minute of play, LA goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts was called upon to save a shot from Montreal midfielder Justin Mapp, who was able to take the shot after Galaxy defender Omar Gonzales failed to clear a pass and headed the ball into the path of Impact midfielder Ignacio Piatti. A few minutes later LA had a good chance when defender Dave Romney, starting his 2nd MLS game for the red-card suspended Leonardo, headed a corner kick from Giovani dos Santos off the post. Montreal recovered the ball and headed down the field. A nice back pass from Drogba to Piatti resulted in another Ricketts parry and Impact midfielder Dilly Duka put the rebound into the net; fortunately, he was called offside and the goal was disallowed. From that point on, the Galaxy seemed to gain control of the half and created the better chances. In the 21st minute defender AJ Delagarza sent a shot high and wide over the net. Seconds later Gyasi Zardes, who started in the forward role but switched places with dos Santos, took an almost identical shot from distance that went over Montreal keeper Evan Bush and into the crowd. The Galaxy’s best chance of the half of course came from forward Robbie Keane. A pass from Juninho in the 33rd minute gave Keane the chance to chip the ball over Bush, the type of shot he has completed multiple times since coming to LA; unfortunately, this time Bush was able to block the attempt.
“I think that is one of the positives to take away from this game is that our defense was solid and we put out a shutout that we haven’t had since early July. So that is one of the positives, and a little frustrating in the attack. We obviously wanted more, especially at home where we can be so dangerous. Tonight just wasn’t clicking and wasn’t going our way.”
—LA Galaxy defender Omar Gonzales
The second half was more of an even contest between the two teams. In the 66th minute Keane was able to put a pass from midfielder Baggio Husidic, making his first appearance since August 17 as a replacement for dos Santos, past Bush but had the goal called back because of an offsides call. Keane had another chance in the 69th minute courtesy of a surgically placed pass from midfielder Steven Gerrard but his shot was off the mark. Zardes saved the ball and passed it to Husidic who, in a bit of a recurring theme for the night, shot the ball over the net. Shortly after this, in the 72nd minute, Husidic had a shot at redemption when he stole the ball and passed it into the box; both Keane and Zardes were there but Montreal defender Victor Cabrera continued his excellent play of the evening and smothered the attempt. Perhaps the best chance of the half belonged to Montreal as Drogba was able to get past Gonzales and put a shot just wide of the net. His reaction to the fans in the Angel City Brigade and Section 120 was priceless as he knew he just missed a chance to break the hearts of the hometown supporters.
Gonzales had a bit of an inconsistent performance on the night. He was able to help shut down Montreal’s obvious threat in Drogba but he also made some poor passes that could have changed the outcome of the game. Overall, Romney and Delagarza were the better defenders. Ricketts’ tendency to parry the ball as opposed to catching it created a couple of scares and if not for the offsides call could also have resulted in LA dropping 3 points. Dos Santos took a rough foul around the 27th minute and was taken out of the game during half time; his health will be a key factor as the Galaxy finish the last five games of the regular season.
With the draw, LA now has a 13-8-8 record for 47 points, tying them with FC Dallas but putting them in third place due to the total wins tie-breaker. They are still almost certain to make the playoffs and need to keep the goal of finishing in one of the top two spots in the Western Conference, if not outright winning the West and the Supporters’ Shield, as their top priority. A top two finish will give them a bye heading into the playoffs. Their performance Saturday coming off a bye may make some wonder if having to play every week would not be a bad thing but the benefits of extra rest, especially with two CONCACAF road games on the schedule, should be enough motivation to drive them forward.
LA now heads to Rio Tinto Stadium to play Real Salt Lake on Saturday, September 19. The 6:30 PDT game will be televised on Time Warner Cable Sportsnet and Time Warner Cable Deportes. Radio coverage will be on The Beast 980 AM and 1330 AM.