Torreón, Mexico – The LA Galaxy gave up four unanswered goals and failed to score a single goal in their two legged match with Santos Laguna and were unceremoniously bounced from the quarter finals of the CONCACAF Champions League.
Goals in the 19th, 23rd, 36th and 61st minutes saw a comfortable Santos Laguna cruise to victory over Los Angeles and the Southland team had very little to say about it.
It would be easy to crucify the Galaxy’s defense, as giving up four goal is usually a good indicator that your team isn’t going to win. Van Damme deflected two balls that ended up being goals against LA and the marking was poor on several set pieces. Dan Kennedy was forced into action too many times (6 saves). You can throw the last goal out as the Galaxy were pressed forward trying to resurrect any hope of a comeback. But it still went in the back of the net and it still hurt.
The defense was not good, and nothing will make up for that. And I’m sure it didn’t help that Ashley Cole was away in Rome attending to his Son’s birth. Continuity this early in the year is a must and the Galaxy didn’t have it. Dave Romney started in Cole’s left back spot and his marking led to mistakes that led to a goal.
But in reality the midfield and forwards for LA did relatively little to relieve the pressure on the defense and ceded possession too easily.
Gerrard and De Jong were particularly out of touch and there was almost no linking play to find Keane Or Dos Santos at the top of the formation. For the second consecutive game Arena chose to pair Robbie Keane and Giovani dos Santos together, at the top of his 4-4-2, and for the second consecutive game the two failed to produce anything.
Zardes and Dos Santos were lost in this formation. Rarely did an attack find the two on the same page. On the rare occasion the LA Galaxy did get forward it was from the left with Boateng using his pace to open up space behind the Santos Defense. But Boateng couldn’t find a cross or a pass. His attacks sputtered harmlessly and he was usually isolated from any sort of support. And with Lletget closer to game fitness, after recovering from a preseason groin injury, you may’ve seen the last of Emmanuel Boateng as a starter. Which should probably be no surprise.
But questions must be asked of Bruce Arena. Throughout the preseason he preached about Zardes’ positioning as a striker. Throughout the preseason Zardes was paired with Robbie Keane and Dos Santos was at right midfield. And then, in two game, that actually count, Arena reverses course and gets shutout twice. And it’s not say that the Galaxy were in some sort of offensive greatness during the preseason. But continuity…
Overall this is a very young team in terms of the amount of time they’ve played together (not young in terms of age). Figuring out offensive tendencies and understanding exactly how everyone plays together should develop down the road. But when an organization focuses so much effort onto a single tournament and comes up so very short, it will leave people asking questions.
There is no doubt that from top to bottom the LA Galaxy wanted to win this tournament. There is no question that the players on the field had every intention of putting together a solid performance on the field at Torreón. But when the result is so lopsided, and it becomes so very difficult to pick out that effort or that passion, then something went horribly sideways, very, very quickly.
CONCACAF does MLS no favors by starting the tournament before MLS teams actually get a competitive match in. And in 8 games this LA Galaxy team could look like the world beater that the lineup sheet and bios tell us they could be. But for now, deep in the heart of Mexico, on an airport tarmac, questions will need to be asked and answered by the players, coaches and club officials. They’ll have to ask why it all went wrong and they’ll have to ask how they can fix it.
The LA Galaxy will have little time to nurse this very fresh wound. DC United, who was also bounced from the CCL Quarterfinals tonight, comes to StubHub Center on Sunday, March 6th to kick off the MLS Season. Rain is in the forecast in Carson, so it looks like the storm clouds may be building rather than subsiding.