The Galaxy fight back after an early Darren Mattocks goal and advance to take on San Jose. Vancouver is left fuming after a questionable penalty sets up the winning Galaxy goal after putting in a spirited defensive effort.
Bruce Arena was able to fit all of his attacking players on the pitch in a 4-4-2 alignment. Tommy Meyer, Omar Gonzalez started at center back with Hector Jimenez and Todd Dunivant playing right and left back. In the middle, Juninho was relied upon to prevent any Whitecaps counter attacks. David Beckham also played in the center but focused on drifting to the right side where he found space to get on the ball and pick out long diagonal passes. The wide players, Landon Donovan and Mike Magee tended to drift inside. Robbie Keane played up top alongside Edson Buddle; Buddle tended to stay up high looking for crosses while Keane tended to drift into the wide zones and drop deep and play with the ball at his feet.
Martin Rennie came into the match looking to play a defensive style. His side stayed compact with two banks of four. In front of these lines were Barry Robson and Darren Mattocks. The issue with this counter attacking setup was the lack of linkup play between Mattocks and Robson. As a result, Vancouver struggled to find any relief of the pressure as LA kept pushing numbers forward.
|Barry Robson cannot get on the ball.|
Nevertheless, the defensive performance was solid. Jay DeMerit and Andy O’Brien showed why having two veteran center backs can benefit a team in the playoffs. They dealt with all of the Galaxy crosses and kept their lines tight and organized. Lee Young-Pyo and Jordan Harvey occupied the fullback slots. In midfield, Alain Rochat, John Thorrington, Gershon Koffie and Matt Watson acted as a four man shield in front of the defense. The 4-4-1-1 shape was well drilled into the side and was almost enough to spring the upset.
Fast Start Perfectly Suits Vancouver
The visitors were in dreamland after three minutes. Matt Watson flew past Hector Jimenez down the left side and squared a ball to Darren Mattocks who cleverly guided his first time strike off the far post woodwork and in. Mattocks’ astute run away from goal opened up space for himself to receive the pass and put his side ahead.
The early lead gave Vancouver zero impetus to push forward and all the inspiration to defend what they had. Immediately, they dropped very deep into their own half and put ten or eleven players behind the ball at all times.
While this strategy was effective for the first 70 minutes of the match, it was always likely that LA was going to score. Vancouver conceded too much space in their own half. This allowed the Galaxy to dominate possession on the right side. Beckham and Donovan, along with Jimenez overloaded the right side of the pitch. This led to the Galaxy having 74% of the possession in the first half.
|Beckham and Donovancontrolling the right side.|
However, the Caps were able to limit the number of chances the Galaxy were creating. Most of this was due to the number of interventions won by DeMerit and O’Brien as seen in this MLSsoccer.com chalkboard.
Frantic Stretch Decides the Match
Bruce Arena went to the bench to tweak his setup. Strangely, he brought on Marcelo Sarvas, normally a central midfielder in place of right back Jimenez. This brought another player on the right side and more domination for the Galaxy on this side of the pitch.
But, Sarvas is not a right back and was caught out of position in the 68th minute, when Thorrington launched a counter to Watson. Watson carried the ball down the left played a one-two with Kenny Miller and forced a terrific save by Saunders. The rebound shot by Miller was off target and Robson had the third chance but was blocked.
The Caps would rue this missed oppurtunity once LA equalized a minute later. The Galaxy switched up their style and played a short corner to Donovan who found Mike Magee unmarked at the penalty spot to first time volley the opener from LA. Key in this exchange was an injury to Jay DeMerit who had to leave and Martin Bonjour came in. Bonjour would give away a penalty a minute later as Donovan tried to run past but was impeded by Bonjour’s raised arm. There was definitely contact but the decision seemed quite harsh.
After defending so fiercely, Vancouver lacked the energy to push for an equalizer and never threatened.
Can LA beat San Jose?
For the two legged affair against the Quakes, Bruce Arena will have to tweak his lineup. He should consider removing Edson Buddle and starting Sarvas to sure up the midfield. With Beckham tending to drift wide, Juninho will need a partner to help control San Jose; a team with a much more attacking approach than Vancouver. Playing with Robbie Keane alone up front will help Magee and Donovan find space when they make forward diagonal runs from the outside.
Defensively, Sean Franklin will be critical. If he is still injured, then Jimenez will have to start. He does not have a lot of speed and would concede tons of crosses for Gordon, Wondo and Lenhart to latch onto. Also, Josh Saunders will have to be confident and aggressive in the air. If he is caught flapping at a cross, the ball will end up in the net.
San Jose should be heavy favorites and the tie should be extremely intense and competitive. After the last matchup resulted in a war of words, the Galaxy will be ready to kill the Western Conference giants.
Thoughts on the Match? Can LA beat San Jose?