Carson, CA – The LA Galaxy fought out another tough victory in front of more than 25,000 Friday night fans as Steven Gerrard made a 66th minute rebound count as the teams only goal on the night. And while the Galaxy and Brian Rowe stretched their four game winning streak (in all competitions) and extended their shutout streak to 360 minutes (last goal they allowed was 90th minute strike to Chad Barrett in a 1-1 draw vs San Jose on June 25th, 2016) they still haven’t been convincing enough to warrant any real enthusiasm but you can’t discount the results.
For the first time in the 2016 season Bruce Arena named a repeat lineup from the game before. With an injury to Ashley Cole and Nigel De Jong serving the 2nd game of a two game suspension, and both players missing in the previous game, it made sense to go with the same eleven guys on the field.
So it would really come as no surprise that the same players that were outstanding against Seattle were also dangerous against a Houston team who have yet to win on the road in 2016 (0-8-3).
Jeff Larentowicz and Baggio Husidic were tasked with being the defensive muscle again and both did an admiral job. They frustrated Houston and clogged the middle of the field forcing play wide and into the hands of the outside backs. For their parts, AJ DeLaGarza and Dave Romney were solid again and complimented the outstanding play between Daniel Steres and Jelle Van Damme.
“Yeah. If I’m playing out wide I’m trying to find the striker. I’m just trying to be as deadly as I possibly can be and I just have to keep working.” Gyasi Zardes, LA Galaxy Midfielder
And if you’re looking for exhausting work rate and creative generators you need to look no further than Gyasi Zardes and Giovani dos Santos. Dos Santos was particularly dangerous with multiple crosses that just couldn’t find anyone on the end and seeking passes that made the somewhat stagnant Galaxy offense look it’s most dangerous.
“It feels like we’ve got men in here. Men who are prepared to do the dirty work and go the extra mile for each other.” Steven Gerrard, LA Galaxy Midfielder
Gyasi Zardes looked unstoppable when cutting inside and he must’ve been fouled many times without getting a whistle because he simply ran through the tackle. And while others will make a big deal out of his first touches not always being the best, he was decidedly better in tonight’s game. He will continue to be one of the most integral parts to this LA Galaxy team keeping it’s winning ways. And he’s the perfect compliment to Dos Santos on the other side.
The goal scorer also had a good night. Nothing spectacular, and apparently it didn’t need to be spectacular. It was just smart soccer played with a mind to not let Houston get out on the counter attack.
Gerrard said after the game that this year feels different than last. “It feels different. It feels like we’ve got men in here. Men who are prepared to do the dirty work and go the extra mile for each other. Last year – without naming names, we were all responsible for it – we were too weak, we were too flaky, we were all over the pitch and we were conceding stupid goals.”
But if you’re ranking Robbie Keane performances this one isn’t going to be near the top. Robbie Keane missed an 8th minute Penalty Kick, was just late to a 32nd minute chance that saw Dos Santos and Zardes combine, couldn’t quite get on the end of another cross from Dos Santos in the 65th minute that saw the LA Galaxy captain send an off balance over the cross bar from about 4 yards out, and ultimately had his shot stuffed by Houston goalkeeper Joe Willis in the 66th minute only to see Gerrard finish it off past a spattering of defenders trying to keep the ball off the goal line.
“We played well enough to get three points. Not our best game; I think we made things a little difficult on ourselves not converting the penalty early in the game and then a few other chances we could have been better with.” Bruce Arena, LA Galaxy Head Coach
Keane was visibly upset when leaving the field and if you understand why Robbie plays soccer it’s not too difficult to understand why. The performance just wasn’t up to his standards. If you’re an LA Galaxy fan then you should be happy that “Keano” isn’t happy. He strives to make an impact. He did that tonight but just wasn’t able to burry any of the good chances he had.
The LA Galaxy move momentarily into 3rd place in the Western Conference and closed the gap on Colorado who sits just two points ahead and will play on Saturday where they host Sporting KC.
For the LA Galaxy the road will get crowded as they prepare for a Wednesday night (July 20, 2016) matchup with the Seattle Sounders in US Open Cup Quarterfinal play. That game will be hosted at the StubHub Center Track & Field Stadium and is expected to sell out all of it’s nearly 5,000 seats. Parking is free for the intimate event.
Then it will be off to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Portland timbers on Saturday, July 23rd and Away again on July 31st to play the Seattle Sounders again.
It’s a schedule that could see the LA Galaxy pick up points against struggling teams or run out of gas in the remaining week and a half in July.
The LA Galaxy are expecting that both Nigel De Jong and Ashley Cole will be available for the rest of the month, although how much they’ll play in a US Open Cup game remains to be seen.
It’s more than a promising run through the last three league games for LA. And their undefeated streak is now at six games (all competitions). Their last loss came on an away game against Toronto FC on June 18th and they seem to be building momentum, ever so slowly. While you can’t fault the results, it’s probably time this team started dominating teams from whistle to whistle if they’re going to make a late season run at the Supporters Shield and a record 6th MLS Cup.
AJ DeLaGarza said it best though, “yea we are getting the shutouts and we are getting goals so now we just have to play better. We know that inside this locker room it has not been pretty, and when it has been pretty we’ve lost. So we’ll take the three points and continue to get better.”