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Defensive Failings Continue to Haunt the LA Galaxy

Last year, the Los Angeles Galaxy won their first two matches to get people talking about how different the Galaxy team to start the 2021 campaign was from the 2020 version. 

Saturday afternoon, Los Angeles found themselves in much the same acceptable circumstances going into their third match of the season against the Seattle Sounders, a 3-2 away loss which the Galaxy controlled large parts of but got nothing from it.

Two impressive shutout wins had people talking once again about a new-look Galaxy that is resolute. Although they’ve started well, they went to Seattle and lost.

But while Seattle outclassed the Galaxy in last year’s edition, Los Angeles took the fight to Seattle on Saturday and only a mix of Galaxy mistakes and Sounders grit were enough to steal the win for the home team. The latest loss makes seven visits in a row the Galaxy has failed to win in Seattle.

Suppose Seattle away is the “measuring stick game” that Vanney described in the lead-up. In that case, it shows that although the Galaxy can play with and even outplay teams like Seattle, it still hasn’t found a way to win consistently against them, especially when they beat themselves with defensive mistakes.

“Yeah, just in terms of punishing ourselves with goals and bad times and too easy of goals, that doesn’t feel like where we want to be this year.” – Greg Vanney

When the club entered the match having conceded no goals in 196 minutes, the Galaxy undid themselves by surrendering two set-piece goals and Julián Araujo giving away a penalty in first-half injury time Seattle a come-from-behind win in front of 33,200 people. Los Angeles Galaxy Head Coach Greg Vanney called this performance “infuriating.”

“Infuriating is the emotion at the end of it. I felt like we controlled the vast majority of the game. I didn’t feel like they had really any attacking solutions except for to go long and try to play off of long balls or set pieces,” Vanney shared of Seattle’s match. “And, I thought we had good control of the game as it relates to the ball. I thought we had good control of the game as it related to chances in the run of play. I just, we just undo ourselves by the set-piece goals. The nonsense penalty kick ‌we give up for no reason. These things change momentum.”

To be sure, the Galaxy started the match full of intensity and got a dream start and the momentum Vanney referenced thanks to a well-worked play that L.A. put together on 6 minutes.

Left-back Raheem Edwards played in midfielder Rayan Raveloson, who unselfishly squared the ball for Javier “Chicharito” Hernández to smash the ball past Seattle Goalkeeper Stefan Frei for the game’s first goal.

(Left-back Raheem Edwards recorded his third assist in three games for the Galaxy. Photo with L.A. Galaxy permission.)

A little less than ten minutes later, Jordan Morris tied the score for Seattle with his first MLS goal since returning from an ACL injury that kept him out for about a year. Morris would bumble home a corner kick the Galaxy failed to deal with and that Araujo might have accidentally touched last for an own goal.

Araujo will want to put this game behind him. It was his challenge on Fredy Montero that led to the Seattle penalty, which Montero took himself to claim a 2-1 scoreline just before halftime. 

The Galaxy started the second half like the first; by getting an early goal that tied the score 2-2 on 49 minutes. And Galaxy fans will be happy to see new signing Douglas Costa get on the scoring charts.

A deflection off his free-kick snuck past Frei to earn the Brazilian his first Galaxy and MLS goal. 

Sensing a chance to finish ‌the game, the Galaxy pushed men forward. Kévin Cabral almost opened his goal account for the season with a beautiful shot from the left-wing that crashed off the post. Victor Vázquez’s introduction put the Galaxy even further on the front foot by pushing Efrain Alvarez out to the flank where he was much more dangerous. Granted the start thanks to his wonder goal last week against Charlotte, Alvarez had little impact until he had more room to maneuver on the flank. A matter of inches and a crossbar was all that separated him and the Galaxy from a second straight identical wonder goal in as many weeks.

And for all the opportunities, the Galaxy theme of the season so far resurfaced; that of not putting away their goal chances. Only this time, they were punished for it.

An inability to clear another set-piece play allowed Seattle Defender Xavier Arreaga to rise unmarked and head home the goal into the left corner of Jonathan Bond’s net on 71 minutes to put Seattle in the lead 3-2 and secure a Sounder win.

“It’s definitely fixable. It’s good and bad, but good more that it’s happening now early on in the season because defending set-pieces is definitely fixable. We just need to have that trust in one another and know what to do, wherever the ball is on the field… we just all need to be on the same page. We move forward from this game and really take a look in the mirror and correct things and we’re definitely going to work on it in the coming week,” Galaxy Midfielder Mark Delgado said of the defensive failings and how the team might fix them.

And if Seattle is indeed a measuring stick, Los Angeles still has some room to grow.

As Vanney mentioned, they’ll have to go through the Emerald monster to have any kind of success.

(Douglas Costa scored his first Galaxy goal in the 3-2 loss to Seattle. Photo with L.A. Galaxy permission.)

But first, the Galaxy will have a week to sort their defense out before Orlando City visits L.A. next Saturday, and they will try to recapture momentum.

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