Which is to say, it feels nice to feel something other than shame…
A much-improved second half by the Los Angeles Galaxy, though I always wonder how much of that has to do with one team as much as the other – e.g. did Gamba Osaka lay back a little bit? I can’t answer that, but what I can say is the LA’s defensive set featuring – and it’s worth emphasizing these are rookies – Sean Franklin and, um, Valentin (Julian, I think) looked several orders of magnitude better that the Greg Vanney-led set LA played in the first half.
On the attack – hey, hey – LA had a chance or two. If ____ MacDonald (OK, I checked; it’s Brandon) could shoot for shit, we might have watched a tie and a penalty shoot-out. Hell, even Edson Buddle had a late crack at salvaging some pride for Major League Soccer (MLS), but it wasn’t to be. And, perhaps, that was just.
I won’t bore you with much – this is pre-season after all – but I thought I’d close out with a series of unconnected, yet still related, thoughts.
– Josh Wicks looked much better than Steve Cronin….but don’t sign him. Like any other team, the Portland Timbers need a good net-minder and Wicks fit well with Portland. That said, this goes back to the whole command-the-area gripe I leveled against Cronin at the half; Wicks owned the area, even when he looked a little shaky.
– As alluded to above, Valentin looked something like good. So did Franklin – most notably in the late-game duel against Beckham’s antagonist, Lucas. Is it too late to waive Vanney, perhaps even Chris Klein, and ride the youth? The biggest difference between the first and second half was singular, yet massive: the balls played through and over the top no longer totally exposed LA’s ‘keeper to a one-on-one horror. That’s a good thing. Based on tonight’s performance, as well as financial considerations, I’d give it a thought.
– Michael Gavin looked like the purest crap in the first half. I didn’t notice him in the second – and for all the right reasons. (For the record, this is different than my inability to see Vanney in the first half; that was more a case of “Oh shit, the ball shot up the middle again, where the fuck is Vanney?”)
– Beckham in a deep role: I have to confess, that’s never occurred to me until now. Having him launch long-balls out of the back worked as well as anything LA tried tonight. Given who they have up top – and I think this still pertains, by and large, with Carlos Ruiz on the field – this seems a low percentage option. But it keeps the opposition both honest and wary. On a night like tonight, where sucking dong was the order of the first half, I figure, why not?
– Buddle. Buddle, Buddle, Buddle. Make him take a pay-cut and he’s a competent back-up….if only just. At the same salary, though, nope. It can’t be justified.
– You know how impressed me less and less as the game went on? Josh Tudela. Too often, he was where good passes went to die. Speaking of, the shine came off Kelly Gray fairly early in the second half as well.
– Did LA have forwards? I know Buddle was out there…but was he really? But Ely Allen menaced the goal like a toddler, the occasional smart move/hold-up aside (particulary late in the game when, after completely whiffing on a shot, he did the smart thing and found a friend). Byron Jordan looked like an old-school MLS player out there – all enthusiasm, no control.
To close with some thoughts on Gamba Osaka, they looked like a pro team. They made LA chase, by and large, passed well – especially with those momentum killing passes across the back of their defense – and were able to play dangerous balls from inside LA’s half. To give LA some credit, they broke down Gamba here and there, but it always had that unintentional air to it, which suggests a good night out for the J-League team.
Here’s to hoping it’s Houston they meet in the final…on the strength of tonight’s performance from one MLS club, I’m not counting on it.