Photo by the Amazing Steve Carrillo

Vanney critical of defense in loss to San Jose

The LA Galaxy lose back-to-back games for the first time this year, and now are in danger of falling out of third place. Greg Vanney says the defense has to get better, and soon!

CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy (11-8-2) just entered their first losing streak of the 2021 season. The fact it happened at home for the second time in a week and to historic rivals will probably make this one sting even more.

But from the start, the Galaxy were second-best to the visiting San Jose Earthquakes (6-7-8), who would win the game in a 2-1 final. And the ‘Quakes, riding a 10-game unbeaten streak, were more than the Galaxy could handle.

Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney opted to rotate his lineup for the third game in seven days and coming off a Tuesday night loss to the Colorado Rapids, the Galaxy were expected to take the game to the Earthquakes. Derrick Williams, Jonathan dos Santos, and Samuel Grandsir started on the bench as Nick DePuy, Sacha Kljestan, and Efrain Alvarez started in their place.

The Galaxy started poorly. In fact, Vanney had many words to describe how poorly they played through most of the first half and into the second, but “pedestrian” was the best way he put it.

“I thought the first 60 minutes were pedestrian,” Vanney barked after the game. “It was slow. It was just blah. I think our defending, in general, is just not good enough. We give away too many chances. We give away too many goals.

“It’s on me, and it’s going to change in the next three weeks. We have three weeks until — we play a game next week, which we want to see a reaction –but we have three weeks to get better defensively, because we can’t we can’t keep conceding goals and chances at the rate we are, and it’s a mentality.”

The Galaxy would give up the first of two goals in the 52nd-minute when they would get caught in transition and succumb to an easy-headed goal from Jeremy Ebobisse. With Julian Araujo pressing up the field, San Jose was able to counter against his positioning. So when the back post ball was played in, defender Sega Coulibaly followed the two runners in front of him while Efrain Alvarez, covering for Araujo on the play, marked no one.

Goalkeeper Jonathan bond was forced to make four saves in a little over a minute, but on both sides of a scoreless half, only to see an unmarked striker nod home the opener.

And the goal was a perfect example of how the Galaxy have been conceding goals on the year.

Vanney saw it, and he had no problem explaining it.

“Our mentality is that we love to attack, and we love to have the ball, but we cheat defensively,” he said. “And we rest. And we don’t concentrate. And we don’t do the little things that it takes to be a good defending team. We cheat them. And it’s going to end. Our guys aren’t going to be on the field. I’ve shared that with them. And it’s going to end. Our mentality to defend has to change.

“We’re going to be a good attacking team,” he continued. “I’m confident in that, I’m sure of it. As we get everybody rolling in the second half, when we made some changes, the intensity and the forward-thinking and the attacking hit another speed and another level, no problem. But our defending and giving up chances is just ridiculous right now, and it’s on me. We’re gonna change it.”

Victor Vazquez would level the score for the Galaxy in a bizarre play in the 65th-minute when his corner kick seemed to get past a ‘Quakes defender and was then fumbled into the goal by goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski. But it would be far from enough.

22-year-old Kevin Cabral had a chance just after halftime that he flubbed. That’s when defender Nick DePuy, who drew the ire of Vanney on multiple occasions during the game, hit a ball over the top to Cabral, who had gotten in behind the San Jose defense. But with Cabral in the box, his shot was weak and off-target and didn’t threaten Marcinkowski in the least.

If the Galaxy were lucky on their goal, the soccer gods surely looked to correct that fortune with some misfortune of their own. In the 71st minute, Javier “Chofis” López was able to take the ball to the endline and then drive past Coulibaly before firing off a cross that went through the legs of Galaxy defender Niko Hämäläinen and right past Bond. It was scored as an own goal on the score sheet but was more of a hope and prayer than anything else. And that pretty much took the wind out of the sales of the Galaxy.

Vanney subbed on Vazquez, dos Santos, and Grandsir, but there was nothing on the end of any of their balls. And shots got deflected wide or were easily saved.

The Galaxy haven’t scored more than one goal in a game the entire month while scoring five and allowing five during that run.

And it’s not expected that the weekend will be kind to them. Minnesota, Sporting KC, Seattle, and Colorado all have games this weekend with a chance to jump, catch up, or separate from the Galaxy.

So while the Galaxy have been somewhat rooted to their third-place standing in the Western Conference for months, that shouldn’t be the case when Monday rolls around.

“Some of it is missing opportunities,” Vanney said about the lackluster attack. “Some of it is because we don’t defend well, and we start too many attacks deep in our half the field. Many goals are scored in transition. Many goals are scored when you recover balls in good areas. When the team is disorganized, and you play forward, and you attack quicker.

“But we’re leaving out a whole section of the game, in my opinion, where the majority of goals are scored. Because it’s too easy for the opposition just to get into our half of the field. And for us to recover balls too deep in our area. I think we’re the team who starts the attacks the deepest of any team in the league, which means we have to go anywhere from 120 to, you know, 85 yards every time we want to create a chance. So I think we can help ourselves. We can build more momentum into our attacks. But we need to change our mentality to defend and to be harder to play against.”