LA Galaxy defender Dan Gargan plays vs San Jose. Photo by Robert Mora / LA Galaxy

LA Stumped by Houston at Home

“Bleh.” Not exactly Shakespearean, but it’s probably the best word I can find to describe my feelings after watching the Galaxy draw 1-1 at home with Houston. It was a physical game where, apart from a Robbie Keane wonder-goal, the best chances came from set pieces and a lot of the players looked like they belonged on an American football field instead of at the StubHub Center. But the general consensus from both teams after the game is that a draw was probably a fair result.

It was a night where the Galaxy walked off the field visibly frustrated, none more so than the captain himself, Robbie Keane: “When we got the goal we were good for about ten minutes, then we stopped playing. We dropped off, and let them play… at home, we should be certainly doing a lot better than that.”

“We were good for about ten minutes, then we stopped playing.”
—Robbie Keane

It began well. Keane’s moment of magic minutes after the start of the match was goal-of-the-week worthy, running with the ball from the halfway line and then nutmegging and tossing aside a Houston defender like he wasn’t even there, before smashing the ball past the Dynamo’s Tyler Deric—who was superb for the rest of the night. At that point, I immediately thought it was going to be a long night for Houston, and unfortunately LA seemed to feel the same way and it cost them.

Houston responded quickly just a few minutes later off a set piece. Omar Gonzalez was out-jumped in his own box for probably the first time ever in his 6’5” life by Houston’s David Horst, whose knockdown was tapped in by Nathan Sturgis. It was their only real chance of the game, as the Galaxy’s recently reinstated goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, wasn’t really tested after that.

Despite the ugly physical nature of the game, the Galaxy can take some positives out of this one. Jose Villareal has definitely cemented his place in the starting line-up, and we learned the generously listed 5’8” midfielder has more hops than Kobe Bryant. But what was most impressive wasn’t just his good movement on and off the ball, his hold-up play, or his excellent crossing ability; Villareal again showed that he can do the defense work that Bruce Arena needs.

Leonardo had yet another commanding performance, winning a lot of the aerial battles throughout the night, and dealing with the annoyingly physical play of Giles Barnes for most of the game. We here at the Corner love AJ DeLaGarza more than anyone else on this Galaxy team, but the way things have gone so far, it’s hard to justify dropping Leonardo at this point once AJD is match fit.

But questions still remain unanswered for Bruce Arena’s side as Baggio Husidic was a bit of a disappointment alongside Juninho. Not to say he made any glaring mistakes, but it seemed like he didn’t know where exactly he belonged in the midfield formation, and he was slow to anticipate the play both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.  Arena brought on Mika Vayrynen for the second game running as a substitute, and with some more match experience and fitness under his belt, we could see him slide in there in the coming games.

The Galaxy remain undefeated at this point, but with their second draw in a row, it’s clear that it’s taking some time to get back to that MLS Cup-winning form of last year. Both Robbie Keane and Omar Gonzalez stressed the pressure of playing as the reigning champions, with Keane explaining, “When people come here we have to understand as a team that people want to beat us all the time. And we have to accept that every week, that when people play against us, they want to beat the Galaxy. And the sooner we realize that, the better because we are not going to get any easier rides in any game.”

“We have to accept that every week, that when people play against us, they want to beat the Galaxy. And the sooner we realize that, the better.”
—Robbie Keane

It seems as if the next game against DC United won’t be any easier with Keane away on Ireland National Team duty. But LA, and Omar Gonzalez are taking it one game at a time. “You want to win every game. The last draw in Portland felt like a win, this draw felt like a loss.  We want to win at home every chance we get, and when you don’t it’s very upsetting not only for the players, but for the fans. So the draw isn’t good enough. Next time we’re at home, we want to get three points no matter what. We need three points every single game.”

“The last draw in Portland felt like a win, this draw felt like a loss.”
—Omar Gonzalez