Carson, CA — It was the start of a new era for the LA Galaxy. A start they would’ve liked to see three points from. But in their 2-1 loss to the FC Dallas, a team that’s expected to compete for every trophy in MLS in 2017, the Galaxy showed signs of promise from a team that has remained a question mark throughout the preseason.
First off, the Galaxy were not perfect — they aren’t claiming that, and no one is. But they had plenty of chances to score, and just couldn’t find the equalizer. And in a game that was more a tale of two halves, the Galaxy may have received a nod of appreciation from their opponents who they tested throughout the game.
The first half saw an LA Galaxy starting lineup that included newcomers, Romain Alessandrini, and João Pedro, and the basic core that we’ve seen throughout the preseason (see below). With the biggest question marks surrounding Dave Romney and Rafa Garcia — both playing for the injured Robbie Rogers (Ankle Surgery) and Ashley Cole (Calf Injury).
But also included in a group of newcomers was the Jack McBean who got the nod up top, playing in front of Giovani dos Santos. McBean hadn’t started an LA Galaxy game since June 22nd of last year and hadn’t started a senior team game before that, since October 16 of 2013. His inclusion highlights a younger Galaxy team that is looking to make a difference on the field this year.
In the first half, FC Dallas showed it’s quality. Despite Alessandrini making a significant contribution early, the Galaxy were on their heels. Dallas easily went after the inexperienced outside backs of the Galaxy and continued to send balls into the box. Jelle Van Damme and the entire backline did well to clear but also were in the midst of some panicked defending. Dallas only got a single shot on goal but scared LA many times.
Jermaine Jones and João Pedro both picked up first-half yellow cards. Both for tackles that were harsh but not unseen in MLS. Jones was penalized first, in the 17th minute as an FC Dallas midfielder turn up-field and looked to find space. Jones, sensing the danger, chopped him down from behind. Pedro’s tackle was similar and picked up about five minutes from halftime.
“I thought João [Pedro] and Jermaine were a handfuls. I thought they were very good the whole game. It’s too bad they picked up yellow cards early on because that affects how you play the rest of the game.” Curt Onalfo, LA Galaxy Head Coach
The game would be decided in the second half, where all three goals were scored. FC Dallas would score twice on “sloppy” goals. Goals where the Galaxy were caught in transition or easily gifted the ball away. The first shot of the second half saw Dallas’ Maxi Urruti take a blundered bit of possession from the Galaxy and promptly put a shot through the legs of Jelle Van Damme and past Brian Rowe.
The blame will go to Daniel Steres who was having a good night on set pieces but saw a ball bounce off of him to cede possession to Dallas. Then the breakdown continued with Van Damme unable to push Urruti further out of the box. The shot itself was described as every “defenders and goalkeepers worst nightmare,” according to Dave Romney. A ball that goes through your legs and into the back of the net.
But the Galaxy quickly took the ball to midfield and began their assault on Dallas.
Dave Romney, pushing forward out of his left back position, a direction that was straight from the game plan, made his way into the box only to find himself being tripped in the box. Romney said afterward that the call could’ve gone either way, but he would’ve been mad if it didn’t get called for him and angry if it was called against him.
Giovani dos Santos took the penalty and buried it under the bar in the 53rd minute. The start of some real bright play from the Mexican International.
Dos Santos would take another shot in the 61st minute where he saw a skilled maneuver from João Pedro find himself with some space to rocket a shot at Dallas goalkeeper, Chris Seitz. Seitz dove with an outstretched arm and punched the ball over the bar.
Then just minutes later, from a corner kick, Jermaine Jones elevated above the Dallas defense and headed a shot towards the far post. The ball struck off the inside of th post and stayed out. Denying the hosts what would’ve been a deserved lead.
Then almost as quickly as the momentum had built for the Galaxy, the defense feel asleep on a throw-in, and from just outside the box, Kellyn Acosta scored to Brian Rowe’s near post — cutting against his direction of travel and tucking the ball inside. It was a soft goal to give up, with Daniel Steres and Rafa Garcia unable to tuck to push Acosta off the ball and a good finish to best Rowe.
But the Galaxy kept coming in a game they were expected to get dominated. Dallas had to drop deeper into the field and Head Coach, Curt Onalfo took off right back Rafa Garcia for Emmanuel Boateng. Boateng went into midfield on the left and Sebastian Lletget dropped, temporarily, into the right back position. Onalfo would clarify in the post game press conference that he did this in order to keep his offensive players on the field and allow Lletget to get up the right-hand side and attack. Almost an attacking right back role or another attacking midfielder.
“I think Seba was a little surprised too. Looking at me like ‘should I player here?’ F*cking yeah. do it! I mean it’s an offensive choice… It was a bit risky but I think at that point you have to take risks.” Jelle Van Damme, LA Galaxy Captain
Onalfo would clarify in the post game press conference that he did this in order to keep his offensive players on the field and allow Lletget to get up the right-hand side and attack — Almost an attacking right back role or another attacking midfielder. And it was an idea that totally worked. The Galaxy immediately got Lletget, Boateng and the rest of the offense into dangerous positions.
Jelle Van Damme commented, after the game that “I think Seba was a little surprised too. Looking at me like ‘should I player here?’ F*cking yeah. do it! I mean it’s an offensive choice… It was a bit risky but I think at that point you have to take risks.”
And the plan worked. Boateng came in and immediately ran around Dallas’ outside backs. He put in a great cross that found Jack McBean streaking toward the near post. With a little more luck the Galaxy would’ve scored, but McBean’s backheel flick was intercepted. And as it bounced ominously in front of goal, the Galaxy were unable to put it into the back of the net.
Then Jose Villarreal came on for Jack McBean. This pushed Alessandrini, a guy who wasn’t expected to go more than 60-minutes, and who eventually went 86-minutes, up top with Giovani dos Santos as Villarreal dropped into the right midfield position.
And again, LA pressured Dallas.
The final sub for Los Angeles saw Ari Lassiter relieve Alessandrini. Lassiter had a mixed bag with his last couple of minutes. On one hand, he had the best chance to tie the game when he hit a rocket from the top of the box that got deflected on its way toward the net. But he also had a header that came over the top of Walker Zimmerman that he wasn’t quite able to get his head on. If he’s able to anticipate that ball getting past the defender, this might have been a different game — a game the Galaxy deserved to see a point from.
In the final assessment of this team, you have to have a balance of good and bad. The Galaxy surely played better than their preseason expectations. They were dangerous, quick, and sometimes played some beautiful soccer. But they were also poor on defense in spells and lacked a finishing touch. McBean did well to combine with Dos Santos, something Lassiter hasn’t been great at, but he also found himself not as dangerous as I would’ve hoped. But excellent combination play is enough to earn him another start. And he’s way more physical than Lassiter, something MLS referees seem unaccustomed to.
Curt Onalfo, speaking after the game said “I thought it was a game we shouldn’t lose. I thought we played well enough to get points out of the game. I thought our reaction….if you look at the first half, I think we’re sloppy at times. But we had some good, extended possession. We defended well, for the most part, a little disjointed on a couple plays but normal for this time of the season. They come out and score a quick goal. I think our reaction is excellent. And then we’re pushing the game and I’m really disappointed with the second goal we gave up.”
And while the Galaxy knew that defense was going to be an issue, with Rogers and Cole both missing, their lapses were inexcusable. They put Rowe in a difficult position to make either of those saves, and he’s not going to come up with the spectacular, that’s not his style.
But as a whole, I enjoyed the response to adversity from the Galaxy. This wasn’t a team of tired legs from the 70th minute on. This was a team that was fighting to the last minute, and with a little more quality could’ve won this game. Itcertainlyy wasn’t a team that was played off the pitch. And for that, Onalfo and the Galaxy front office have to be excited about what is possible with this much younger team.