Sitting down to watch this game, I already knew the result. And I mean that in two ways. In the first, I knew looking at the Rapids personnel and the LA Galaxy personnel that we were going to lose. Even without Giovani Dos Santos, even while currently only sitting third in the Western Conference, it is a widely held belief that this is the best team in MLS and is the frontrunner for the 2015 MLS Cup. So when I read the burgundy wave preview I thought to myself, "this one's gonna be ‘3-0, Galaxy' ". And I was pretty much right, especially if you consider that the Rapids one goal, from Marcelo Sarvas, wasn't really deserved. It was really just a misplayed ball by Donovan Ricketts.
But I also mean that I knew the result in a literal sense, because I was up in the mountains this weekend, and sat down to watch the game knowing that the Rapids had already lost. You always watch a sporting event differently when you know the result; the passion and the fear and the angst and the intensity are dialed down to acceptable levels, and then you look at things with a much more calm mind.
This game was mostly about the Colorado Rapids looking like a much sloppier version of the Galaxy on offense, and the Galaxy looking like a slightly-sloppy version of the Rapids on defense. For example:
- Eloundou looked like a poor-man's Gyasi Zardes- he has that blistering pace but not Zardes foot control or final-third vision. (yet)
- Kevin Doyle is a slightly smaller, not-quite-as-tricky emulation of his countryman, Robbie Keane. Also, Keane's head is much meatier. Very blockish too. It's quite a noggin.
- The Rapids probably have eight defensive players that are superior to Galaxy starter Leonardo, who looked positively Zat Knight-ish in his propensity to wave oncoming attackers through like a revolving door at Gimbel's (look it up, youngster). To compensate, the Galaxy have Omar Gonzalez, who everyone in the United States will acknowledge is the best central defender in the Western Hemisphere. Everyone, that is, but Jurgen Klinsmann. But no, really, he is. Here's the list of top MLS fantasy defenders, which, despite it being a fantasy soccer metric, is still the best overall measure of defenders because it uses new stats ('Defensive Bonus Points') and old stats (CBI, Goals, Clean Sheets).
Anyhow, my point is, the Galaxy are top-to-bottom a better team than the Rapids, and they showed it. With the exception of the aforementioned Leonardo, I'd take in trade any player on the Galaxy's starting XI in exchange for for anyone on the Rapids. And so would you. And if that weren't enough, Bruce Arena has been producing proven winners and forging unified teams since forever. He won five NCAA men's soccer titles with University of Virginia. He won MLS Cup twice with DC United and three times with the Galaxy. In looking this up, I saw that, as a goalkeeper, his only International Cap came against Israel. This only makes me like him more. So it's not even fair to compare him to Pablo Mastroeni. Pablo could, with enough time and effort and experience, be as great a coach as Bruce Arena. I see you snickering in the back, and I'll ask you to politely stop.
It's not about the Rapids being inferior, though, because lots of inferior teams have beat the Galaxy on an off-night; the Galaxy have underperformed on a regular occasion this season. The Rapids, however, didn't nearly play well enough to catch a sleeping giant napping on this night.
What the Galaxy are so good at
Referred to last year as ‘tiki-taco', a term I love, the Galaxy do this dink-dink-dink passing better than anyone. Marcelo Sarvas used to be a great pivot in this kind of play. Then he comes out to Colorado, and this kind of 1-2-3-2 play you almost never see in Commerce City. I like the Galaxy, not because they're successful, and not because I'm born and raised in LA. I like them because they do things like this; things that make me love soccer. The Rapids will eventually start playing the beautiful soccers. At least, I really hope they will.
Is this the end of fair Dillon Powers?
In this match, Dillon Powers had 1 tackle, 2 fouls, 14 passes, and 18 touches; 0 key passes, 0 shots on target, 0 dribbles; which is a numerical way of expressing that Dillon Powers' was on the pitch in name only in this game. The only two Rapids who had fewer touches were Juan Ramirez, who had 13 touches in 26 minutes, and Gabriel Torres, who had 9 touches in 15 minutes. The much-maligned Nick LaBrocca subbed in for Powers at the 56' mark, and proceeded to fire off 2 key passes, was 7/7 on long ball passes out of 23 total passes, for a total of 96% passing, and had 28 touches. In half the amount of time that Powers was on the field.
In the past 12 games, Powers has 0 goals, 1 assist, which led me to think that perhaps he's being playing this poorly for a while now. Powers wasn't good in this game , but a little more scratching beneath the surface shows that, although this game was a clunker, in fact he's been pretty good at those slick passes he's always been good at. Powers has 15 Key Passes (completed passes that end up in a spot for a shot) over those last 12 games. Over that same period, Pittinari generated 7 key passes, Cronin 5, and Sarvas 4. So Powers is still the best midfield link-up from the backline to the front. The Rapids front men, however, haven't been successful at converting Powers' passes into goals.
The midfield is still trying to master the 4-3-3, in my opinion. The team passes diagonally long over the midfielders a lot and relies often on getting to the attacking wings. The Rapids could improve production if the midfield were gelling better, but time is running out. And Powers can't give us clunkers too often, because we really need the whole team to be clicking if we want to not get blown out as the season progresses.
Obligatory Clint Irwin Vine
Well, in a season that doesn't look like it'll end in the playoffs, just enjoy Clint Irwin beasting on anything they throw near him.