SUPERCLASICO: Three reasons L.A. won
CARSON -- The Galaxy's dominance of Chivas USA in the first half of Saturday night's SuperClasico at Home Depot Center ought not have surprised anyone, no matter how good the Goats have looked in recent weeks.
Chivas USA is a team still finding itself, and although it's clear Robin Fraser and his staff are building a strong foundation that should carry the club for years, it has been less than five months since he took charge, and nothing in this sport happens instantly.
The Galaxy are one of the three reigning superpowers in MLS at the moment -- along with Real Salt Lake and the New York Red Bulls -- and they flexed their muscle in the 1-0 triumph, outpossessing the Goats for the first 45 minutes and playing an agile absorb-and-counter game in the second half that let Chivas hold onto the ball but provided little space for it to do anything with it.
Here are three reasons the Galaxy came away winners:
1. BIG BROTHER
Chivas USA arrived on a real high after winning last week at New York, and it has been among MLS's best possession teams. But the Goats couldn't hang with the Galaxy through most of the first half -- they were overrun in midfield and couldn't possess against L.A.'s heavy pressure -- and couldn't do much once they had more of the ball after falling behind.
In short, the Galaxy beat Chivas at their own game, then walloped them with theirs.
“We were a bit na´ve to think we were going to go out there and jogo bonito, I guess you should say, and not have to work for it,” said Chivas defender Heath Pearce. “What's made us successful this year is that we've high-pressured teams, we've set the energy level really high, we press teams and make it really difficult for them, and that's when the game opens up for us and we start to play.
“I don't think we came out with the same energy from the start and forced them to play on our terms.”
The Galaxy set the terms, expertly moving the ball around then forcing turnovers when Chivas took possession.
Said Fraser, when asked what Chivas could learn from the Galaxy's performance: “We need to possess the ball better and not turn it over as much. Seriously. When you turn the ball over, you put yourself under a lot of pressure. A fair number of their dangerous opportunities in the first half came off our turnovers.”
2. KILL THE GAME
Nobody has more success when they're not atop their game than does the Galaxy. They've made a science out of winning when playing poorly, or at least not great. This was one of those nights.
L.A. lacked sharpness in the final third. Juan Pablo Angel wasn't much of an issue, except with a nice through ball that Chad Barrett should have finished (for his second goal of the night) at the start of the second half, and Landon Donovan didn't even get a shot off -- although he was superb in other facets.
But L.A. took advantage of one good chance -- every close-range David Beckham free kick is a great opportunity -- and, when Chivas' energy level spiked, put up a barrier in front of its box that the Goats couldn't penetrate.
“I didn't think they were going to get behind us,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “I think the issue is just were they going to be good enough in putting together some passes and holding the ball up and being able to continually threaten us, and I'm not sure they were able to accomplish that tonight.
The Galaxy owns their cross-stadium rival. Seriously. They've won five in a row, haven't been beaten in the last 11 meetings -- Chivas last toppled L.A. in September 2007 -- and have dropped just three of 23 games in the series.
Pearce said he could sense the fear in teammates, and that the Galaxy's intensity ”shook us a little bit.”
They'll need to dump the inferiority complex to compete with the Galaxy on a level field. And they know that.
“At the end of the day,” Fraser said, “we're a team that has lofty aspirations, and to get there we need to be able to beat the better teams, and we certainly approach this game as playing one of the very good teams in the league. … We were disappointed we didn't play as well as we would have liked to.”