Sure, the Galaxy are the class of the league and the defending champs, and yes, they were playing on their own patch. Sure, the craptastic state of the pitch and the wind didn’t help matters. But for large patches of this match, United looked like they barely new each other’s names, much less belonged in the same division as the Galaxy. Rather than enumerate all the the minor faults in United’s play, let’s focus on just three, shall we? How about (1) lack of connective tissue, (2) poor organization, and (3) an absence of Olsen-ish play?
While there were more cohesive and dangerous moments here than in the opener, the number of plays that broke down through seeming miscommunication, failure of technique, or simple lack of ideas was hugely frustrating. Where the Galaxy made runs and passes with purpose, anticipating each others’ movement and generally looking like they knew what they wanted to do offensively, United’s play seemed far too reactive, waiting for the delivery rather than making the run, pulling up with a frustrated toss of the hands to the heavens when balls were mis- or under-hit (or not played at all).
Though the dearth of creative runs (or the ability to spot them) was a big factor in the lack of quick transition and space in attack, I’ve got to say that I was particularly disappointed in the play of our fullbacks. Not only were they not (until very late in the match) getting forward (leading to a lack of numbers and thus dots to connect in midfield) but their passing was abysmal. Contrast Korb under-hitting a square ball that leads directly to the Galaxy’s second and Russell cranking wild clearances with Franklin bombing forward into crossing positions on the Galaxy’s right flank and Dunivant playing intelligent balls forward into space on the left.
Name Tags Required?
While the lack of offensive incoherence seemed a touch less in this match and a few promising passages showed that all is not lost in that department, the old bugaboo of defensive disorganization was on full display. If not for Willis, a few heroic blocks by defenders, and a number of missed chances by the Galaxy, the scoreline might have threatened to become truly embarrassing. And I saw little difference between the halves to suggest that Dudar-McDonald is going to be any more effective than Jakovic-McDonald.
Of course, that may not be fair given the lack of match time together for the previous two, but even then, three-quarters of the back line looks slow of foot and slow of thought. That’s probably aided by the lack of familiarity amongst the players, but for how many years has this been a problem for United? And when exactly does Jakovic ditch his persistent case of the brain-farts? Probably would have happened by now if it’s going to happen…
Not Olsen-ish Enough
But most damning to my eyes was the lack of fight and urgency on display at the end. Sure DeLeon got one back with an excellent finish, but United’s efforts down the stretch lacked the urgency and hatred of losing that Olsen possessed as a player and seemed to have instilled for a portion of last season. Wasn’t the idea of the big turnover and jettisoning of the old guard supposed to signal the turning over of a new leaf, a rejection of the corrupting culture of losing that had seeped into the club?
Having said all of that, this game could so easily have shifted in United’s favor at a number of points. De Rosario and Santos both had presentable chances to give United the lead. The timing of the LA opener was a killer as having them stewing on dominating the first half with nothing to show for it might have proved useful for United’s second half efforts. And United had some good chances to pull goals back that they spurned.
While much of United’s play had me screaming at my screen in disbelief and frustration, there were flashes of decent attacking sequences. Unfortunately, I tend to be a glass-half-empty guy, so the former outweigh the latter in my mind. Still, missing two starters to Olympic duty and starting without our two Balkan DP’s on the field, there were things to build on here.
But if the defensive discombobulation persists, all that building will be on crumbling foundations placed on swampy ground, and that’s a blueprint for another campaign where the Black-and-Red go home early…