Carson, CA – You’d be forgiven if, after seeing a 4-2 scoreline, and the LA Galaxy’s first loss at home in 2016, you believed that it was simply a matter of the Sounders being the better team over 90 minutes. But that wouldn’t be a true statement. And while you could look at the second half and see three Seattle goals, again you’d probably be missing the momentum change that led to the lopsided victory and the lack of a response from the home team.
No. For the LA Galaxy players, it came down to one play in the second half. One play that pitted rising star Jordan Morris, against first-year MLS defender, Daniel Steres. And it was a play that defined the game and could very well show the shortcomings of a listless LA Galaxy team.
The LA Galaxy started the night with a regular lineup that saw the Giovani dos Santos and Robbie Keane take over the playmaking role from a pairing of Keane and Gordon. Dos Santos, listed as playing underneath Keane, and Sebastian Lletget formed the offensive spine of the team reprising his central midfield role that has seen him flourish in recent games.
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) September 25, 2016
The only real surprise was to see Baggio Husidic take up the right midfield spot in place of Raul Mendiola (Mendiola played minutes the LA Galaxy II’s win over Real Monarchs on Saturday night). Besides Steven Gerrard being available off the bench for the first time since August 27th (LA vs. VAN), it was a relatively predictable lineup and one that should’ve seen the Galaxy be competitive.
And the game started with dominant possession on three fairly good chances. But all the shots seemed to be hit toward Seattle’s Stefan Frei and didn’t challenge him in any way.
But in the 20th minute, after a great releasing ball from Giovani dos Santos to a wide Sebastian Lletget, the Galaxy found their goal. Posted up one vs. one, just inside the box on the extreme right edge, Lletget was able to loft a cross over Chad Marshall and onto the head of Robbie Keane. It was an easy finish for Keane to get his ninth goal of the season, but it was the creation power from Lletget that opened up Seattle’s backline.
But a hard stop to the momentum came just 15 minutes later when one of Seattle’s four first half corners found Jelle Van Damme’s bald dome as it redirected into the back of LA’s net. All this happening just minutes after Giovani dos Santos, on the breakaway, wasn’t able to bury a chance past Stefan Frei. Unfortunately, the own goal would count against the home team, and Seattle would go into the locker room at one goal apiece.
After the break, the Galaxy once again put the pressure on Seattle. Rogers had a shot towards goal in the 50th minute, but it wouldn’t find it’s way in. And despite the possession, LA couldn’t find the go-ahead goal.
Jordan Morris changed everything, according to the Galaxy, at this point in the game. After some deep offensive possession for LA, an outlet pass was made toward Jordan Morris at the half-way line. Daniel Steres went in hard for the body on body challenge. But the more physical Morris was able to turn Steres and then beat him to the ball in a foot race that may have seen Morris tug on Steres as he was ahead of him.
“I know he’s fast. Look, I don’t think he’s that much faster than me. Like I said I’m getting pulled back from behind and I thought I had good position on him. He got a little toe to it and I probably should have just gone through and I would have taken a foul or gone for the ball. He’s pulling my arm back and once he did that he was gone. I wasn’t going to catch him.” Daniel Steres, LA Galaxy Defender
After winning the ball, Morris was in alone on Brian Rowe, and he finished a great shot to bring the Sounders ahead in the 63rd minute.
“I think we should be going in at halftime up a goal or two. We come out and play pretty well to start the second half and I guess we have a breakaway that we miss. And then give Jordan Morris credit, he creates a great goal and we’re down 2-1.” Bruce Arena, LA Galaxy Head Coach
Morris would score again 11 minutes later in the 74th minute, and Osvaldo Alonso would hit a great strike from the top of the box in the 78th minute to bring the Sounders ahead four to one.
The only second-half highlight for the Galaxy came when Steven Gerrard was tugged down in the box allowing Robbie Keane to get his second goal fo the game and his 10th of the season.
And while Jordan Morris will get credit for his brace and the “one play” that broke the Galaxy’s back, Seattle put four goals up on the home team. A scoreline that is similar to a 5-2 loss on October 18th, 2015, that saw Portland start their march toward MLS Cup. And it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that a slumping LA Galaxy could mirror that collapse again this year.
While one play changed the game for Seattle, LA had many, many chances to right the ship and bring order to this game. They just didn’t have a response. And that should worry fans, the coaching staff, and the players. No response in a dash to the playoffs doesn’t make anyone feel good about the remaining three games of the season.
The LA Galaxy will next travel to Dallas to take on the first-place team in the Western Conference and the overall leader in the Supporters’ Shield. That game will be on Saturday, October 1st at 6 PM on Spectrum SporsNet and Spectrum Deportes (formerly Time Warner Cable)
It’s tough to say the LA Galaxy didn’t hurt themselves with the loss because it was an opportunity to pull within two points of FC Dallas. But with two games against FC Dallas out of their remaining three games, the opportunity is still there. It’s just going to be more difficult with Colorado in-between the two clubs.
At this point, it would be a hopeful endeavor to
The LA Galaxy have given up eight goals in the last three games and 12 goals in the last six games. You’d have to go back a further 14 games to find the same amount of goals given up for the Galaxy (13 goals preview 14 games) and that even saw the Galaxy through a pretty horrible August.
What has been the difference? You might say that when Robbie Rogers returned to the team after his injury, moving AJ DeLaGarza to the bench, that the defensive capability took a hit. After all, there are only two players on this team who should start over AJ DeLaGarza (Van Damme and Cole). And Daniel Steres and Robbie Rogers aren’t those guys.
Both Rogers and Steres struggled today. With Steres having the worst of the two’s performances. But it’s to the point in the season that sitting one of your best defenders for any reason doesn’t cut it. And while you like the height that Steres provides — he had two or three cleared set pieces today — you can’t deny that AJ DeLaGarza can’t also play that position. It’s a question Arena needs to adequately answer going down this last stretch of games.
THIS TEAM IS BETTER WITHOUT STEVEN GERRARD:
It’s tough to say, I know the history, but Gerrard doesn’t work for this team. Quite honestly, I’m not sure Robbie Keane works for this team anymore, either. While I appreciated the substitution of Baggio Husidic for Landon Donovan in the in the 67th minute, I can’t say the same about Gerrard, and I fully understand he drew the penalty. But he changes the way the Galaxy play too drastically. The Galaxy lose Giovani dos Santos’ playmaking ability when you allow Gerrard, and Keane to occupy his same space.
It’s time that Gerrard stays on the bench. It’s not easy, but if Bruce wants to win, it’s time.
And Robbie Keane isn’t far behind. You can say Keane had two goals in the game. And this was a much better performance from Keane compared to the Kansas City game, but Robbie has lost almost a full step, and his creation game isn’t the same. He could still be a reliable finisher — and that may be how the Galaxy use him down this stretch — but he needs to work off of Giovani dos Santos, and I’m not sure either plays their best when they’re both on the field.
This doesn’t mean that Keane can’t score goals. He will do that. But he’s just not capable of creating the chances. He’s just a finisher, now.
MAN OF THE MATCH:
Who stood out in a positive light? Who put their stamp on the game? It’s between Sebastion Lletget and Jeff Laretowicz. While Lleget will get the most credit, Larentowicz battled in the middle all night allowing Sebastian to go forward and create for the attack. Neither had a perfect afternoon, but for me, Larentowicz made the most of a terrible situation. I just wish he could find the target on a more regular basis. But he’s a defensive midfielder. You get what you get.
QUOTE OF THE MATCH
LA Galaxy Midfielder Jeff Larentowicz on if the LA Galaxy left too much space behind them:
“Defensively? It didn’t feel that way. We will watch the tape and see but it certainly didn’t feel that way. Jordan Morris is a quick kid, I think that he pulls Dan [Steres] on the side line and he had a ton of space to run into there but I don’t think it was a case of us leaving too much space.”
LA Galaxy Midfield Emmanuel Boateng on if not clinching a playoff spot was a missed opportunity:
“Absolutely, it’s a big missed opportunity. They’re a good team and when you’re getting closer to playoffs you want to be winning games like this and getting good results so we definitely didn’t do well enough, played well in some spots, but it definitely hurt us conceding those goals. We have to be better the next game.”