RECAP: LA Galaxy vs Chivas

It went out with a whimper. On Sunday afternoon, a 1-1 tie between the LA Galaxy and their StubHub Center roommates – Chivas USA – signaled the end of the rivalry that never was.

This time next year Chivas USA won’t be Chivas. They’ll be rebranded and likely moved to a new location (though still within LA). And, with any luck, they’ll finally shake the bad vibes that have plagued their franchise from the start. All you need to know about Chivas USA is this: for the LA Galaxy, a tie against the goats feels like defeat.

Not winning feels like a loss against Chivas. All we can do is look forward — we can’t look back. We are going to work extremely hard when we come back from break and just try to take it to them next time we play them. The goal is to win every other game.
—Gyasi Zardes

So what went wrong?

It was a bad sign when Chivas managed to score first. In the 20th minute the goats caught LA flat-footed. Juninho was racing to get goal-side of Martin Rivero. Just as he got level, Rivero sent the ball toward Erick Torres. Leonardo managed to get his heel on it, but to no avail: the ball found Torres and he wasted no time putting it confidently past keeper Jaime Penedo. For the first time in a long time, Chivas USA had a lead on the Galaxy.

By the 27th minute, Chivas were hanging on to that lead by a thread. But a pair of heroic saves from keeper Dan Kennedy kept the Galaxy scoreless. First Donovan arced one toward the top right corner of goal — but Kennedy swiped it out. Then a diving header from Sarvas seemed sure to find the net — but somehow Kennedy got in front of that, too. After the game, Landon Donovan called Kennedy “one of the best goalies in the league.”

Sometimes you get everything right. It was good to be able to keep that out of the net and keep the game in hand. It was really just as quick as can be. I saw the ball come out and did see white jerseys, so I just got up as quick as I could.
—Dan Kennedy, Goalkeeper, Chivas USA

Less than ten minutes later LA broke through. In a sharp bit of combination play, Stefan Ishizaki found Marcelo Sarvas at the top of the box — and Sarvas sent a beautiful ball toward the far post, where Gyasi Zardes was perfectly positioned to head it home. Look at the names in that play: Ishizaki, Sarvas, Zardes. They aren’t LA’s typical star players. For once it looked like the Galaxy could score without Robbie Keane.

It was a great goal. We talked about putting a lot of service in front of the goal. I think with a little better service we could have gotten more chances like that. But [it was a] good goal for Gyasi.
—Landon Donovan

But nothing in the second half supported that theory. Although LA’s transitions from defense to offense continued to shine, they couldn’t seem to string anything together in the final third. The Galaxy were in control, yet didn’t look dangerous at all — and that’s perhaps the most damning thing you can say about a team’s form.

Bruce Arena made several substitutions to little effect. Notably, Chandler Hoffman got his first minutes in the MLS. Hoffman’s truly shined in his time with the Galaxy II — he’s a player right on the cusp of being MLS-ready. But he didn’t manage to make a difference tonight.

The execution of the last pass or the shots, some reluctance at times to shoot the ball, and the crossing at times was not good or should have been there and wasn’t there for us. All those little things that make a difference against a team that is going to defend with numbers. A draw for them is a victory. They aren’t going to come out of that shell unless you execute a little bit better. And we didn’t.
—Bruce Arena

We’re halfway through the season. We’re past the point where you’d expect a team to start clicking. When I think back on some of the other Western Conference performances I’ve seen lately — the Timbers nearly overcoming a 4-1 deficit against the Whitecaps; the Whitecaps not letting them; Seattle trouncing a side with the quality of Real Salt Lake — I can’t help but notice the LA’s lack of urgency. The Galaxy aren’t hungry for wins. Other teams are starving.

Like I said: this is a tie that feels like a loss. With any luck it’ll also be a wake-up call. It’s June, we’re halfway through the 2014 season, and it’s time to start playing like the team you want to be in the playoffs.