Galaxy 3, Wizards 1: A Supporter’s View

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Call Ruud Gullit the magic man.

How else can you explain how the Dutch coach has pieced together a useful Galaxy defense out of the tattered corpse of a defense wearing LA colors just a month ago.

Yes, David Beckham and Landon Donovan are schooling opponents with regularity, but it is the improved defense that has the Galaxy rolling.

The Kansas City Wizards found that out the hard way. The league’s road warriors continued the league’s longest road trip with yet another failed attempt at a win and more questions about an offense that just can’t score many goals.

SBI Correspondent Nathan Henderson-James was at the Galaxy-Wizards match (after a harrowing trip) and provides us with his perspective on the match (KC correspondent Mike Cross was out of town and could not file a report, which is probably just as well for Wizards fans.)

Beckham blast caps another strong night for the Galaxy

By NATHAN HENDERSON-JAMES

I learned a lot in the course of the game between Los Angeles and the Kansas City Wizards.

First, clear skies in Albuquerque does not mean that your plane to LAX won’t be delayed by an hour.

Second, the view from the $80 seats at the HDC is way more up close and personal than that from the $28 ones (where I normally sit), but without the whole-field perspective.

These two things are related because the flight delay meant that I didn’t make it to the stadium until about 12 minutes were gone. But because of that I ran into a guy in the parking lot who had zero interest in futbol but a free ticket to a seat about 12 rows back from the field. I’m pretty sure no felonies were committed in my acquisition of that ticket.

Third, I learned a little about tactics as Ruud Gullit made his substitutions. For about 65 minutes I watched a Galaxy team do everything it could to answer my conundrum from last week’s column, namely was the Galaxy really that good or was Dallas simply that bad? (But you wouldn’t remember that because the column never ran. I’ve now promised Ives that I will never again call MLS Commissioner Don Garber a “febrile, inbred, pig-faced, heroin-snorting imbecile”. But I digress.)

For two-thirds of the game it seemed to me that last week it was Dallas who were really that bad as Kansas City stifled the Galaxy by forcing its mostly mediocre midfield to bear the burden of creativity. But early in the second half Gullit rejiggered things by pulling Brandon McDonald (who was faked out of his underwear by former Argentine international Claudio Lopez on the Wizard’s only goal) for Alan Gordon and slotting Landon Donovan behind the strikers so that he and David Beckham could handle all the playmaking duties. This broke the Kansas City lock on the middle of the park.

The results were serious Galaxy pressure on the Wizards’ defense as exemplified by Donovan’s run that led to the penalty kick and Buddle’s very pretty goal in the 74th minute.

If I were a Kansas City fan I would have been glad that this game was only available on HDNet because I would have been a mite exercised by Donovan’s channeling of Kyle Martino’s in-the-box theatrics from last year (that PK looked like a dive to me and I had a pretty damn good view – did I mention I was 12 rows from the field?). And I would have been screaming for offsides on Buddle’s strike.

But I’m not a KC fan so I’m pretty much going to gloat, watch endless replays of Beckham’s 70-yard open-net bomb, voice platitudes like “That’s soccer”, and bask in the fact that the G’s sit first in the West on 14 points. I’m also going to revel in the 22 goals so far, the 2nd best goal differential, and the first comeback win of the season.

Recent form suggests the G’s are becoming increasingly determined, gritty, and growing in confidence. All the better that Carlos Ruiz looked dangerous in his six minutes and without Landon on the field to boot, because Toronto FC will be a real test – one of MLS’ most hostile environments, a very skilled midfield, and most likely without 90 minutes from either Landon or Becks.

Which Galaxy team will show up in the home of toques, national health care, and William Shatner? The one that started the season so miserably in Colorado, or the one that axed a coach in Dallas and snatched a victory from KC? I don’t have a clue, so, like a Boy Scout, I’m hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. C’mon boys, make my preparations unnecessary.

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14 Responses to Galaxy 3, Wizards 1: A Supporter’s View

  1. Nick says:

    I can almost guarantee that this weekend’s trip to Toronto will be very bad. If Tuesday’s Open Cup game was any indication, we will be flat and without flair or a reliable attacking threat. Vagenas is a good player, but the man cannot create an attack to save his life. When Beckham and Landon are gone, it really shows the youth and inexperience we have in the midfield. Gordon, Buddle, and Ruiz don’t look like they work well together and playing Gordon as an attacking midfielder is just like playing 10 v 11. We have great passing and movement, but it hardly goes anywhere but side to side.

    Franklin is God and Cronin is getting better. I hope that these two things keep us in the game.

  2. Ives says:

    Guys, definitely not the place for this discussion. Keep it about this game.

  3. Original Aaron says:

    Nathan-

    I too have been very impressed by Gullit. The SOP for foreign coaches coming to MLS is that they get fed up with all the rules that don’t exist anywhere else, and that serves as a distraction to keep them from actually “coaching up” their players and doing what they can each game from a tactical perspective. Gullit has largely avoided this. I’m sure there are things about MLS that irk him, but he hasn’t shown it, and I think that his imprint on the team can certainly be seen by their slow march towards respectability. I was very concerned at the beginning of the season that the Gals were going to screw the proverbial pooch and waste the Beckham gravy train by surrounding him with a team that had no hope of winning- for about 3-4 weeks I have no longer been worried. I hope Gullit can continue to mold this team b/c it would be really good for MLS if the Gals went deep in the playoffs (only way ESPN will give MLS playoffs decent coverage).

  4. walter says:

    I liked your comments on Gullit’s moves. The more games I see the more I like him as a coach. He is good at making adjustments to get the most out of some of those attackers.

    Moving Donovan was brilliant. Donovan isn’t a striker, and he isn’t a midfielder, but he has the ability and skill to break down defenses from either spot. Gullit isn’t afraid to chnage Donovan’s role, and move him around according to how the defense is playing. Its a solid strategy.

    Now if the G’s could only improve on D.

    By the way, why no comments on the madness in front of the goal, when Klein saved a goal? I’d like to hear your take on that situation.

  5. Steve B says:

    The Sun is reporting interest in Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley by Newcastle. doubt there is too much integrity to the report, but maybe you can check it out Ives.

    (Since there is no recent post on this topic, I’m putting it here.)

  6. John says:

    I was there Saturday (and in the 5th row)… what was encouraging was the number of chances LA created.

    What was discouraging was the obvious need for a second center half to pair with Franklin, and a holding midfielder who can control the game. LA needs those pieces if the Galaxy is going to be a contender.

    What was funny was the fact that Greg Vanney was worse than the kids that played at halftime.

  7. Nathanhj says:

    Walter,

    That goal scramble was pretty tense I have to say and Klein saved a sure own-goal. Cronin scared me by coming out and Sealy nearly burned him for it. But the other view is that by coming out he forced Sealy into a harder shot that was ultimately cleared. I’m not enough of a keeper coach to know which is the better interpretation.

    I didn’t mention it due to space restrictions. Gotta pick and choose what I’m going to emphasize in each story and that didn’t make my priority list. We can argue about that, but then, that’s kinda what these comments are about, right? 8-)

  8. matt says:

    good writing nathan. entertaining.

  9. kco says:

    “But I’m not a KC fan so I’m pretty much going to gloat, watch endless replays of Beckham’s 70-yard open-net bomb, voice platitudes like “That’s soccer””

    At least you can admit it. MLS needs to do something about the ref situation. The last 15 minutes of DC-NE were an officiating disaster as well.

  10. Joseph D'Hippolito says:

    Will Edu be back from national-team duty? That could make a difference, although Carl Robinson by himself is better than the Galaxy’s midfield “triangle” of Franchino, Pires and McDonald. Even if Edu isn’t back, TFC’s back line and depth is far superior to the Galaxy’s, and that’s critical. Remember, TFC beat the Galaxy, 3-2, in L.A. with both Beckham and Donovan in the lineup!

    Perhaps the most important factor, though, is the fact that John Carver has TFC playing with confidence for the first time ever. Despite Ruud Gullit’s “tactical magic,” the Galaxy is very much an up-and-down team mentally. Gullit has expressed as much in post-game press conferences, in which he criticizes the lack of leadership and communication on the field, and the failure to concentrate for 90 minutes. If that’s true w/The Big Two in the lineup, then the Galaxy is in for a very long day in Canada.

  11. William the Terror says:

    Fine report, Nathan. And while I have no real problem with your Hunter Thompson-like description of Don Garber, I must take issue with your choice of the word “febrile,” which means “feverish.” Could you actually have intended “feeble,” connoting “ineffectual” instead? Other than this one comment, however, you are spot on!!!

  12. William the Terror says:

    Fine report, Nathan. And while I have no real problem with your Hunter Thompson-like description of Don Garber, I must take issue with your choice of the word “febrile,” which means “feverish.” Could you actually have intended “feeble,” connoting “ineffectual” instead? Other than this one comment, however, you are spot on!!!

  13. Nathanhj says:

    William, you are totally correct on the definition of “febrile”. I chose it in order to convey the kind of feverish shakes one gets when one is in the throes of illness. Also it can connote a kind of mad-scientist-like crazed wild-eye-ness.

    But, feeble would have been an effective choice as well.

  14. William the Terror says:

    well that makes perfect sense! lets hope for a victory at BMO.