Sunday, October 31, 2010
Despite all my proclamations to the contrary, LA Galaxy came out in the first leg of their series against Seattle Sounders and took control of the proceedings. Edson Buddle dropped in a beautiful goal from maybe 30 yards out that provided all the scoring Galaxy needed as the beat Sounders 1-nil in Seattle.
The biggest thing I took away from this meeting was that LA's midfield really seems to be coming together. In the middle of the season Donovan was getting moved around too much, too many people were getting playing time, and it was hard for the midfield to develop a character. Then Beckham came back after missing the first 23 games with injury and added a new wrinkle everyone needed to get used to.
Now, after some more experimentation with Landon up top or Becks in the middle, LA seems to have found a formula that works. Buddle up top with Mike Magee (or occasionally Tristan Bowen if you want speed), Juninho as the attacking mid, Landon on the left, Beckham on the right, and then either Dema Kovalenko or Chris Birchall in the back depending on whether it's more important to disrupt the opponent's attack or provide service forward. It worked extremely well tonight.
Juninho disappeared from time to time in the first half, but is clearly the answer in that slot. Check out this combination play between Landon, Magee and Juninho that really should have doubled LA's lead in the 85th minute.
But that wasn't the only reason LA got the win; they had a great plan for shutting down Seattle's dangerous wing play and played it tremendously. I was worried with Eddie Lewis starting on the left that Zakuani and Nyassi would have a field day using their speed to get past him. But Arena had Donovan tracking back to provide cover against the speed and then Lewis was able to use his experience to close the young guys down once they had to attack him from a stop.
It was amazingly well executed, and only made possible by LA having a player of Landon's caliber. Other teams clearly haven't been able to play the same strategy but Galaxy gave Seattle fits this year, beating them by a combined 7-1 in the regular season.
Maybe I didn't give the past enough credit and chose to ride Seattle's greatly improved play in the second half to make my decision. I'm still not ready to completely write off Seattle's chances, mind you. Sigi Schmid is a great coach and I'm sure he'll have something new ready for the return leg in Los Angeles. Whether or not it's enough to overcome a goal deficit, we'll have to wait and see.