Sunday, August 9, 2015

Game Notes: Los Angeles Galaxy v. Seattle Sounders

Why I Watched It:
It was the array of stars that tempted me: Keane, Gerrard, and, now, Dos Santos. It was only 10 minutes before kickoff that I knew that all of the Seattle Sounders stars would be absent – no Dempsey, no Martins, no Alonso. Hell, Marco Pappa didn't even suit up. Eh, it is what it is.

For a good 30 minutes, this one threatened to interest. Even after Chad Barrett epitomized the Sounders season in the space of five seconds by scoring and pulling up lame, Seattle took the game to the Los Angeles Galaxy well enough, at least for a while. They attacked through set-pieces mostly and, as the commentating team pointed out, Seattle's big men – for they are that – gave Omar Gonzalez and Leanardo all they could handle on five to a half-dozen corner and/or free kicks. LA escaped with a 3-1 win in the end, but the thing most worth noting is how much the score could have moved going in either direction: LA escaped on at least two occasions, which would have resulted in a tie, and Stefan Frei came up big enough for Seattle to keep out a couple great chances for LA, which prevented a blowout...

...and, in spite of all of that, it wasn't the most exciting of games.  LA won it comfortably with a combination of insouciant patience, star power on the field, and celebrity sightings off of it (Gordon Ramsey in David Beckham’s luxury suite!). Basically, Seattle's still in trouble...

Notes on LA
- Not unlike (what I heard about the Republican debate) the under-card talent carried the Galaxy today. Gyasi Zardes addressed every deficiency I've ever attributed to him today (e.g. heavy touch and dodgy decisions on passes), Juninho  ran the midfield like it was 2014, and Sebastian Lletget terrorized the opposition left like he's done all season.
- The (meaningful) workman-like stuff aside, the stars dazzled only in passing (as in, from time to time, not just by their passing). Keane and Giovani dos Santos combined neatly on a couple occasions, - most notably when Keane fed dos Santos for LA's third (links later) – but I detected something subtle in LA's overall approach, something that flirted with fire and/or over-confidence.
- Defensive man-of-the-match honors go to Robbie Rogers, who not only positively locked down his left side (the opener excepted), but also followed a play to clear a ball of the line.
- Bottom line, for all their stars, LA's role players tend to come up huge. Whether it's Bruce Arena's coaching or savvy scouting, this is the secret to LA's success - the fielding of solid starting elevens.

Notes on Seattle
- It's easy to forget, sometimes, just how big Seattle is as a team. Just with Chad Marshall, Zac Scott and Andy Rose, they have size on set-pieces that a lot of teams rightly envy. And I'm sure I'm missing someone...the commentators made a lot of the advantage, even if it wasn't enough today. That won't always be the case, either.
- For me, Seattle's best player today was Erik Friberg. His energy was excellent, for starters – one would think he's playing for a contract like that – but most of the purpose and pace to the Sounders attack started and continued through him. He didn't get much help, sadly.
- Where it stopped? Lamar Neagle. It's official, the kid's having a bad year. Between Leanardo picking the ball out of his spokes and him being half a step off or behind, Neagle posed little to no threat all game long. Much like he has all season. This is a big, big reason for Seattle's inability to climb out of the slump.
- To their credit, though, Seattle's "Accidental B-Team" put in as good a shift as I've caught since the big absences hit. Because someone else pointed this out to me (can't remember who), I can't take credit, but a surprising amount of Seattle's offense passes through Tyrone Mears.

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