GALAXY: L.A. can't finish, takes the fifth
CARSON -- The Galaxy lost five games all of the 2011 Major League Soccer season, and two of those were giveaways, with B sides sent in to absorb defeat in New York at the end of a insane stretch in early October and in the season finale at Houston a few weeks later.
They matched that total Sunday in just their ninth game, another hapless display in front of the net costing them plenty in a 1-0 defeat to the New York Red Bulls, who scored an early goal, then bunkered in and survived a second-half onslaught to escape with the points.
“It's a bit of a broken record,” head coach Bruce Arena said, then did his best impression, mentioning 11 times in eight minutes that the Galaxy had “enough chances to create [enough] goals” to win, or words to that effect. Chances are all well and good, but when they're not put away, things go wrong.
Things are going very wrong for L.A. (3-5-1, 10 points), which has lost three of six league home games and sit a dozen points -- four victories -- behind San Jose and Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference standings.
Ryan Meara made four big saves and the Red Bulls (5-3-1, 16 points) defended with vigor, but it's the Galaxy's lack of precision when it counts -- a recurring nightmare for them -- that's quickly defining what is developing into a deeply disappointing campaign.
“It's getting even more frustrating week after week ...,” said David Beckham, whose crosses into the box provided a good deal of the dozen decent opportunities the Galaxy found and quickly lost. “We keep saying we're not worried about it. It's got to come a point where we need to be worried about it, and we're close to that now.”
Joel Lindpere scored the goal for New York, striding through an open expanse and into the Galaxy box to collect a short pass from Jan Gunnar Solli and fire into the right-side netting. It was all that was required for the Red Bulls, who were missing six regulars -- injured Thierry Henry and Teemu Tainio and suspended Rafa Marquez the headliners -- and employed the expected tactics.
There wasn't a whole lot of space for L.A. to operate, and the sharpness needed to break down New York's 4-1-4-1 alignment wasn't forthcoming. The rookie Meara did well to repel an Edson Buddle header at the start, a Mike Magee shot to begin the second half, a tremendous Juninho blast in the 82nd minute and Landon Donovan's reflex shot from 12 yards in the 86th.
Juninho's, a rising shot from outside the box reminiscent of several of his most spectacular goals, came close -- “I was lucky to get a big enough piece of it to put over,” Meara said -- and Robbie Keane nearly had one in the 13th minute, chipping over the keeper from Sean Franklin's cross only for Markus Holgersson to track it down and clear it, flicking it back over his head, at the goal line.
“Throughout the 90 minutes, there were certainly enough chances to get ourselves back in the game, at least get a point or perhaps win the game,” Arena said. “We have the ball at the feet of our best players, and someone's got to make the plays when they're there. We didn't make the plays. ... There's goals out there for us to score, and we're not now getting the ball in the back of the net.”
It cost L.A. a week earlier, when it rallied in stoppage for a 1-1 draw with visiting FC Dallas -- and in a 2-0 loss Wednesday at Seattle, which was a most deserving victor -- and the inability to protect the home field is a glaring problem. The Galaxy did not lose a game at HDC last year, some 25 in all.
“I think [the mentality to win at home] went the first time that we lost [in the March 10 season opener against Real Salt Lake],” Beckham said. “Obviously, it's something we were proud of last year, having our home ground as somewhere where it was tough to come and play, tough to come play against us and also out fans. That went the first time we lost this season, and it's continued. It's something we have to change, because we want to make it hard for teams to come here and play, and right now teams are coming here and enjoying it.”
L.A. had as close to a first-choice lineup as possible after leaving Beckham, Keane and defender Todd Dunivant home for Wednesday's game -- Bill Gaudette remains in the nets, and rookie Tommy Meyer returned to central defense -- but “our play's just not good enough,” Beckham asserted. “Our passing was poor, I think. We battled for 90 minutes, and that was obviously a positive thing. We never gave up, we kept on going at them. Sometimes games are like this.”
Too many have been like this for L.A.
“We could have won this game,” Arena said. “We should have won the last two games at home. ... It comes down to finishing. I think at home we're more than capable of getting a goal or two, so we have no one to blame but ourselves.”
WORTH NOTING: Great Britain Olympic manager Stuart Pearce was on hand to scout Beckham, who is being considered for one of three over-23 slots on the British side for this summer's London Games men's soccer tournament. “He’s coming to see a player that he’s thinking of picking for the Olympics, so he would do it to a number of players,” Beckham said. “It’s a little bit easier for him for players in Europe, but, obviously, coming all the way over here is good for me.” ... There were a few defensive breakdowns on New York's goal. Nobody tracked Lindpere's run from midfield, and when Franklin surged forward to challenge Connor Lade, who fed Solli, and Meyer shifted wide to corral Solli, A.J. DeLaGarza failed to shift into the channel on the left side of the box. Meyer and Beckham collapsed on Lindpere when he got the ball but were too late to keep him from taking the shot. ... L.A. has been shut out three times in nine games. They've posted no shutouts after getting 17 in 34 league regular-season games last year. “We've got to [get a shutout],” DeLaGarza said. “Sooner or later. Sooner rather than later.” ... UCLA All-American Brian Rowe, an MLS pool goalkeeper, was the Galaxy's backup again. ... David Junior Lopes, who started the last four games (adding a physical element to L.A.'s game but committing some costly errors) was left off the 18-man game roster. ... New York coach Hans Backe, on the performance of his backline: “It's such an unexperienced back four -- I think they have 20 games [in MLS among them], and it is their second [successive] clean sheet. The whole team just worked their [butts] off.” ... The game was a sellout, L.A.'s second of the season.
Home Depot Center (Carson)
Galaxy 0, New York Red Bulls 1
NY -- Joel Lindpere (Jan Gunnar Solli) 19
Galaxy: Bill Gaudette; Sean Franklin, Tommy Meyer (Michael Stephens, 75), A.J. DeLaGarza, Todd Dunivant; Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Juninho, Mike Magee (Pat Noonan, 68); Edson Buddle (Chad Barrett, 67), Robbie Keane. Unused subs: Bryan Gaul, Dan Keat, Brian Rowe, Marcelo Sarvas.
New York Red Bulls: Ryan Meara; Brandon Barklage, Markus Holgersson, Tyler Ruthven, Connor Lade; Dax McCarty; Dane Richards, Mehdi Ballouchy (Victor Palsson, 77), Joel Lindpere, Jan Gunnar Solli (Juan Agudelo, 82); Kenny Cooper. Unused subs: Jhonny Arteaga, Jonathan Borrajo, Corey Hertzog, Ryan Maduro, Jeremy Vuolo.
Yellow cards: Ballouchy 30, Beckham 31, McCarty 80, Barrett 88.
Referee: Kevin Stott. Att.: 27,000.
Records: Galaxy 3-5-1, 10 points; New York 5-3-1, 13 points.