A superlative effort from FC Dallas Sunday night rendered the Galaxy season closed for renovations, Supporter’s Shield in hand, MLS trophy further from grasp than last year.
Buddle was outplayed by another MVP candidate, but wasn't all his fault.
An extremely telling game for Bruce Arena’s men last night as some tactics were exposed and players as well. Some thoughts:
• Edson Buddle
A lot of folks hating on the MVP candidate this morning. Don’t. Be a little upset, but don’t go beyond there.
As we’ve written before Buddle played a yoeman’s amount of game this year and Bruce Arena rarely–in something we labeled here as an act of lunacy–rested him down the stretch. I remember a particular game late season against the Union where Buddle just kept getting hammered and hammered.
Devoid of a strike partner that could effectively play off him (sorry Mike Magee, Jovan Kirovski), Buddle–after his blistering start–always drew the defense’s top man in coverage and was frequently in coverage.
What Buddle can be faulted for last night is the ability to get knocked off his game by physical after-the-whistle plays. No need to get involved in an on-field skirmish when your team is down 1-0 and you’re the only striker option. You should now be more mature Mr. Westchester.
• A Non-Existent Central Midfield
I expected Bruce Arena to clog the middle with David Beckham falling back and providing an option in the central midfield.
Ironically, if you look back to last year’s conference final against the Dynamo (the Power Outage Game) it was Arena’s movement of Beckham from the wing to central midfield that engined the Galaxy to the win in that one.
Beckham started out extremely wide in this one and did occasionally drift centrally as the game wore on. His play was uneven at best, but the Galaxy needed options.
Juninho shied away from contact and the ball all match long. We'll talk about Dax in a bit...
The tandem of Juninho and Dema Kovalenka might have been better off not taking the pitch at all…at least you could say that on offense. While Kovelenko is never the attacking stalwart, Juninho’s play and movment–sans one scintillating pick pocket, dribble and shot in the 1st half–was flat-out disgusting.
With acres of space at times in front of him Juninho seemed unnerved by the physical Dallas midfield and rarely if ever showed for the ball. When he was in position, he frequently mismanaged the possession by tentatively squaring a weak pass or forcing a lead pass into traffic.
In fact, if you get a second, head on over to ESPN3 and watch the last 10 minutes of the 1st half.
If you’re a Galaxy fan, you will find yourself screaming at Juninho who is either standing still or moving away from a simple and necessary linking opportunity–with yardage in front on him to work in the center of the field if he received it.
While it’s true that Dallas defended well, it’s up to your hub midfielder to set the tone and dissect the defense. Perhaps the youngster was too green on the evening? Either way it’s his job and he didn’t get it done.
• An Unruly Backline
Say what you will of the absence of Gregg Berhalter and perhaps Omar Gonzalez’s lack of communication, but affix your eyes squarely on Donovan Ricketts here.
What happens when your backline and keeper don't communicate...
Ricketts is the veteran out there–Eddie Lewis had his own problems focusing on containing his flank–and he’s been failing to marshall his backline all season (see Wondo, confusion, the Buck in August, 1-0 Earthquakes).
TSG has been beating the anti-Ricketts drum all season and he was not only slow to react to shots, but negligently tardy in calling out defensive assignments or calling out players after an assignment was missed.
Three different times in the game Omar Gonzalez elected to punch a ball out-of-bounds when it wasn’t clear to him if Ricketts was coming up to meet it or wanted a back pass.
That Ricketts won the goalkeeper of the year…we will come back to that….
To the backline…
As I pointed out multiple times on Twitter before Dallas started getting loose on a regular basis, the L.A. back four often looked jaggedas oppose to ruler straight. Omar Gonzalez–who one has to now be concerned about his slow footwork (courtesy TSG’s Mr. Tuesday on this observation)–continually was pulled both out of position and perhaps worse sank the offsides line deeper as Altiba Harris’s speed seemed to scare him.
A.J. De La Garza, who didn’t have a howler, was the victim of a sagging backline and poor midfield play in front of him. De La Garza became a casualty of the “Should I attack or sit back?” conundrum.
Eddie Lewis, in his last MLS game, was acutely attuned to his mark and less the back four partnership and Sean Franklin….dear TSG fave Sean Franklin…did not have one of his better games and seems to play skittishly once Dallas started posing continual threats.
A nightmare evening L.A.’s backline.
• Bruce Arena’s Strategy & Tactics
As much as Arena was to be applauded against Seattle and some of that earned…
Actually, let’s talk about Seattle.