The Bitterest of Draws: VAN vs LA

The LA Galaxy leave Vancouver with nothing but one point and the bitter taste of what-should’ve-been. Despite scoring in all the ways they’re supposed to, LA twice gave up the lead to settle for a tie against the Whitecaps.

I’m disappointed. I would have liked to get three points today. We obviously didn’t do a good job protecting the lead.
—Bruce Arena

At least the new guys found time to shine. LA’s first goal started at the feet of Dan Gargan in the 38th minute. He lofted the ball left of Vancouver’s goal and onto the head of Baggio Husidic. It was the sheer accuracy of Husidic’s header across the front of the goal that set up Stefan Ishizaki for his own header — this one into the back of the net. Only minutes after the Vancouver crowd had chanted “who are you?” at Ishizaki, his goal gave them an answer.

Let’s talk about Ishizaki. The Swede’s been slow to acclimate to MLS, but in the past few games we’ve seen him come alive. Already he’s tallied two goals and two assists — but his real contribution is the versatility he brings to the Galaxy’s midfield. As defenders realize Ishizaki’s a man they need to mark, the goals may dry up. But his smart movement, pinpoint passing, and patience on the ball look to be an increasingly important part of the Galaxy’s gameplan this season.

As for Gargan, setting up the goal was just one highlight of a very good night. The defender was eager to get involved in the attack, pushing forward repeatedly to fill in space on the right wing. He made much more of an impact than Landon Donovan, and all while managing to avoid any major flubs on defense.

Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Leonardo. LA started the second half with the lead and it took a horrendous mistake for Vancouver to equalize. In the 67th minute Leonardo shielded the ball instead of clearing it out of the penalty area. Jaime Penedo and Vancouver’s Darren Mattocks raced toward him, but as the Galaxy players collided Mattocks won the ball — and he made his chance count.

I think both Leonardo and Jaime would tell you that they could have done better on that play and we should have been a little more focused.
—Landon Donovan

It was a low point for the Galaxy and, frankly, not a goal they should’ve given up. In reply Bruce Arena made changes — basically the only changes available to him. Gyasi Zardes and Rob Friend came in for Ishizaki and Husidic, and Landon Donovan moved back into the midfield to give Friend a spot up top.

The towering Canadian immediately got to work doing what he does best: acting as the human version of a pinball bumper in the penalty box. It only took five minutes to pay off. Omar Gonzalez launched the ball toward Friend, who bounced it down to Keane at point-blank range — a shot the captain is never going to miss.

But when Ishizaki and Husidic left the field they took LA’s possession with them. Vancouver started making chances and the Galaxy couldn’t quite hold their lead. When Sarvas left Kekuta Manneh open at the top of the penalty area, the resulting strike can only be called a golazo. Manneh sent the ball low and fast toward the far post, a shot so perfect not even “San Penedo” could stop it.

It feels like a loss, to be honest with you.
—Robbie Keane

Robbie is right right to be frustrated with the 2-2 tie. There’s a level of professionalism in holding a lead and neutralizing the opposing team. Today LA displayed none of that — none of the patience, possession, and gamesmanship you’d expect of a team of the Galaxy’s caliber.

I think when the dust clears and everything settles we’ll be okay with it, but we’ve got to get better. If we’re in this position again later in the year, which we will be, we have to make sure we learn from it.
—Landon Donovan

As the season continues, going the full 90 needs to be their focus. LA have two weeks to work on that, before they take on the Colorado Rapids on May 3rd.