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.