Carson, CA – It may not have been three points at home, but the LA Galaxy should take some comfort from a solid defensive performance and a renewed sense of confidence with Sigi Schmid at the helm. While the Galaxy didn’t score any goals in this 0-0 draw with the Seattle Sounders, they were dangerous while staying strong on defense and ending a five game losing streak.
“The team, when you look at the goals allowed over the last four or five games for the team, the only way we were going to stand a chance of being able to win the game was to make sure we stop that,” Schmid told reporters after the game. “I thought we did a good job defending. The game got open in the second half but on the same token, we had a couple of good chances. Our offense will get better, but I was happy with the effort and the fight that everyone put in for each other.”
And there seemed to be a renewed sense of spirit as, for the first time in a long time, the Galaxy lined up a mostly healthy squad that saw preferred starters in their rightful spots.
“I hope so. If you look at the starting lineup, we have a lot of players back. That’s a big factor,” Galaxy defender Ashley Cole discussed after the game. “And of course we’ve played together from preseason with the guys that are missing. The other guys have done the job but it was difficult for them at times, so now everyone is healthy and hopefully, in the back end of this season, we can push on and get where we should be.”
Pele van Anholt made his MLS and Galaxy debut at right back, going 71-minutes, while Jermaine Jones played a full 90-minutes in what was one of his most disciplined performances of the year in the center of midfield.
But it was the offensive grit from Romain Alessandrini and Emmanuel Boateng that really shined on that side of the ball. Both players were tenacious in attack and created most of the offense for the Galaxy. But in almost every case, the club fell short of the finishing strike. With Gyasi Zardes misfiring and mistiming his attempts on several occasions and João Pedro unable to find the target on his chances.
“We just have to continue to have confidence, continue to shoot. If you give Romain two-three shots from where he hit a couple of those he’s going to put one in the back of the net,” Schmid explained. “Sometimes you are not going to get time in the box to control the ball and let it settle and bang it into the back of the net. You just have to take the risk. It either goes in the back of the net or it doesn’t. You have to hit the thing first time so we have to be willing to do that and we’ll work with [João] Pedro with his long range shooting because he might have had as many shots as anybody but he’s a good kid, he’ll get better.”
Zardes will need to improve as his effort on the night while energetic to begin with, didn’t provide much in terms of scoring power or an ability to convert chances. He was caught being reactive on too many plays and too fine with his willingness to shoot. And for a team that is without a true striker, he wasn’t good enough on the night.
While Schmid may be lamenting the chances missed on offense, he was more than satisfied with the clean sheet from his defense. A defense that had given up 11 goals in the last three games, and one who hadn’t secured a clean sheet since an ugly 0-0 draw with DC United in early June (6.03.2017). Add to it that the Sounders hadn’t been held scoreless since May 31st, when they lost 3-0 to the Columbus Crew, and there were some definite positives to give this team momentum going forward.
However, this wasn’t a chance to completely forget and forgive the faults and tendencies of the past. Four Galaxy players received yellow cards on the night (Jones, Van Damme, Bradley Diallo, Alessandrini). And Van Damme would end up seeing two yellows – the third time this season that he’s accomplished that feat – and was sent off in the 86th-minute.
“I think our ball movement needs to get quicker and that will help our offense. I think we possess the ball and sometimes we connect passes, I don’t know what our passing accuracy was but it was decent. But it has to move quicker because we have players in [Giovani] Dos Santos, [Romain] Alessandrini, [Emmanuel] Boatang and even [Gyasi] Zardes who can take people on and beat people, but the difference of the a half-second and getting the ball to them and not to them is the difference of them being able to beat people or not.” Sigi Schmid, LA Galaxy Head Coach
Van Damme was already on yellow card accumulation warning entering the match along with Diallo, so they’ll both miss the next game (at Portland) with Van Damme missing an addition game because of the ejection. This is his third red card and eigth yellow card of the season. Stats that ensure he’s the league leader in both.
Schmid seems to be worried about Van Damme but is also confident in what he can do for the team. “I’ll talk to him and we’ll see. There is nobody in the locker room that is more disappointed about what happened today than him. He is a pro, he cares about the team.”
But Schmid may have more work to do with Van Damme than with anyone. A finalist for MLS Defender of the year last in 2016, he’s struggled to maintain that level with the Galaxy in 2017. He’s too often overly physical in his tackles and is quick to lose his temper and pick up cautions and ejections.
It’s at the point where the team must start asking the question of whether the team is better off with a different captain.
Diallo will also be suspended for the next game (at Portland) as his yellow card accumulation has caught up to him as well. Leaving the Galaxy thin on defense if they have to rely on defender Dave Romney – who missed tonight’s match with an injury. Perhaps Jones at center back is a better idea. He did have to man that position during the final minutes of the as he did during the final minutes after Van Damme’s ejection.
LA – Jermaine Jones 42’ (caution)
LA – Jelle Van Damme 45’+1’ (caution)
LA – Bradley Diallo 80’ (caution)
SEA – Joevin Jones 83’ (caution)
LA – Romain Alessandrini 85’ (caution)
LA – Jelle Van Damme 86’ (ejection)
However, after everything that has happened in the last three days for the Galaxy – the firing of Curt Onalfo, the hiring of a new coach, and the signing of Jonathan dos Santos – the Galaxy took a step in the right direction. Even if they’re frustrated with the lack of production.
And having a new head coach with experience and confidence to help this team grow is the best news the Galaxy have had in a while.
“Of course you can feel that Sigi brings in that experience of someone who’s won championships. What we’ve done already in training, he stops and corrects what he doesn’t like. I think today you can see that we played compact and it’s a small piece that we can look up to that will make us work harder.” Jermaine Jones, LA Galaxy Midfielder
Cole certainly seems to be a believer. “I think it’s [the coaching change] everything. I think he comes in and sees how many goals we’ve conceded and says he needs to shore up the defense and the team as well. Of course, we didn’t concede today, but we have to keep doing this now. We’ve worked hard in the few days he’s been here. Next week we have to do the same and win. We need points.”
For the Galaxy, their next chance at “points” will be in Portland next Sunday. Jonathan dos Santos is widely expected to make his MLS and club debut as the club attempts to bring down the fourth place Timbers and start their ascent of the Western Conference.
One Galaxy fan said it best, “I feel like there’s hope. And I haven’t felt that way about this team in a long time.”