Carson, CA – A statement was made by the LA Galaxy at StubHub Center in front of 24,931 fans on Sunday. But it wasn’t a positive statement, and it may just end up spiraling this 2017 version of the Galaxy into more turmoil, finger pointing, and frustration.
But the story isn’t about the defending MLS Cup Champion, Seattle Sounders. They clearly answered the bell when asked. They scored three first-half goals (29′ Clint Dempsey, 35′ Own Goal, 44′ Jordan Morris) – with some help from Ashley Cole who put one into the back of his own net – and convincingly dominated the Galaxy through the first 45 minutes.
But Seattle being good isn’t the problem. No, the problem starts with the Galaxy beginning the first of a three-game homestand without a reasonable plan to beat the Sounders.
From the opening whistle, the Galaxy were tactically naive and completely stymied as to how to solve the Sounders riddle. They were overly reactive and pushed forward time and time again only to be strung out on an easily predictable counterattack. They couldn’t keep numbers behind the ball and allowed the Sounders to overload them time and time again on the right side where Nathan Smith and Daniel Steres looked more like traffic cones on the southbound 405 freeway, then competant MLS defenders.
And where the Galaxy have had all their success in attacking through Romain Alessandrini on the right hand side, Seattle easily trapped him. They made sure two players were available to track him into the offensive zone, and they routinely attacked the
There was so much success from Seatle that they completed just shy of 90% of their passes in the first half. They finished the game only slightly worse with an 86.4% success rate. The Galaxy defensive pressure just never came.
Galaxy Head Coach, Curt Onalfo, sensing the game getting out of hand, subbed Baggio Husidic in the 38th-minute. He sacrificed a speedy and dangerous winger, Emmanuel Boateng, for a more defensive midfield presence with Husidic.
“Unfortunely, he [Boateng] took the sacrifice. But we were just getting overloaded and overrun in the midfield.” Said Onalfo of the move. “We were defending the entire half. So we had to make a change where we added another midfielder.”
Boateng was seen walking past an outstretched hand by Onalfo, perhaps indicating there is some frustration buiding, after the substition. But any player would be frustrated to come out in the game and the Galaxy should have been more than frustrated with how this all played out.
“It was very frustrating,” said Husidic after the match. “I think the first half they just outplayed us and out-worked us. We got tired chasing the ball and they overloaded our weak side and played in our third for most of the first half, which is tough to do. When they kept pushing, we kept chasing. It was difficult.”
Boateng wasn’t the only person to give Onalfo a frosty greeting when coming off the field. Ashley Cole was pulled in the 84th minute for Dave Romney. Cole went out of his way to go around the bench and avoid any contact with Onalfo.
And for all the talk of Giovani dos Santos being ready to break out of his shell and start scoring goals, the Mexican International was oddly quiet for another 90-minutes. Although a lot of blame should be placed on the midfield pairing of Jermaine Jones and João Pedro, who were ineffective at best and allowed Seattle to roam through the midfield without much worry.
The Sounders confidently dismantled the Galaxy from whistle to whistle. Even a slight second-half rebound that saw forward Gyasi Zardes find some space, with the Galaxy pushing numbers forward, never materialized.
But worries have to start creeping up about the team’s faith in a front office who shifted their focus much younger – and perhaps much cheaper – in the off-season. And questions should certianly be raised about this afternoon’s coaching performance.
With the Galaxy Front Office confident that Onalfo was the guy to lead a combination of young LA Galaxy II standouts onto the first team whle also mixing and matching with the talented veterans and signings the team brought to 2017, it feels they have little room to wiggle.
And today, Onalfo was thoroughly out-coached by the Sounders Brian Schmetzer.
But to see the frustration building between players – Jelle Van Damme yelling at Pedro in the second half, Jermaine Jones frustrated with Bradford Jamieson IV, and Giovani dos Santos frustrated with a bad pass from Pedro in the first half – has to be a worrying concern for anyone who is observing this team.
And the goals aren’t coming. Galaxy strikers, not just Dos Santos but Zardes, Jack McBean and anyone else they’ve tried at that position, have scored zero goals in 2017 from the run of play. Dos Santos has the only goal by a striker this year, and it came off a penalty kick he did nothing to earn.
But because he’s the team’s highest paid player, you would expect quite a few questions would be asked about him. One reporter, recalling Onalfo’s praise of Dos Santos so far this year, asked the Galaxy Head Coach what his thoughts were on his form. “I’m not going to comment on that,” said Onalfo. And the press conference was over.
The Galaxy are in trouble, Curt Onalfo is in trouble, and Pete Vagenas and Chris Klein are in trouble. This isn’t simply a slow start – Bruce Arena had slow starts – this is now a crisis situation. The Galaxy have lost 3 of their first 4 games at home and have now lost as many home games in 2017 as the two previous seasons combined.
In sports, like a lot of professions, it’s about what you’ve done lately. And for this Galaxy team, all they’ve accomplished is being woefully short of being competitive in almost every game this season. Things must change and they must change quickly.
The Galaxy will host the Philadelphia Union next Saturday, in a bid to resurrect some pride at home. The Union have failed to win a game so far in the 2017 season.