The Galaxy's brutal fall to Manchester United at the Rose Bowl provided valuable lessons for the L.A. team. (Rafael Orellana/Living Out Loud LA)
Nothing helps growth more than learning from mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are obscured by victory, while other times they’re double-underlined, highlighted and written conspicuously in capital letters after a disheartening defeat.
The Los Angeles Galaxy were left with no option but the latter in the harshest of manners, after a 7-0 thrashing Wednesday night at the Rose Bowl at the hands of 20-time English champions Manchester United.
But keeping in mind the Galaxy’s goals for the season, this may have not been as bad of an outcome as it seems. Sure, statistically this result is embarrassing – or as Galaxy captain Robbie Keane put it, it’s “a kick in the ass.” But this could be the thing that reignites that fire under the team that saw them win consecutive MLS championships.
It all started when Danny Welbeck struck from 30 yards at the 13th minute to give Man United an early lead. Welbeck was the more astute player after referee Baldomero Toledo let play continue following a foul on Juan Mata, and took advantage of a Galaxy defense that was slow to react by blasting a shot that ricocheted off the right post of Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo and into the net.
Then United were awarded a penalty kick at the 42nd minute after A.J. DeLaGarza left his hand up too high and made clear contact with the ball while making a sliding tackle, a play in which DeLaGarza should have known better. Wayne Rooney slotted the ball past Penedo, who guessed correctly, but was unable to deflect Rooney’s powerful and well-placed strike.
Rooney scored again on the last play before halftime by pushing in a ball past a helpless Penedo from point blank after an embarrassing mishap by Tommy Meyer. Meyer was unable to clear a seemingly simple ball and instead saw the ball go through his legs with no one near him.
Three mental lapses and, just like that, the score was 3-0 in favor of United.
“You see what happens at a higher level … everything happens at least a second or two faster,” said Landon Donovan after the game. “The speed of thought, the speed of play, the way they move, the way they react to things … technically, tactically, all those things.”
Donovan, who didn’t come into the game until the 61st minute, had a great view of the way his team put themselves in a tough position in the first half.
“Against Arizona SC you get away with that. But against Manchester United, who are a team full of guys fighting for jobs, you don’t get away with that.”
Although the Galaxy have been in decent form recently, mental lapses and defensive miscues have cost them dearly in the past few games. On June 8 against Chivas USA, Chivas forward Erick Torres took advantage of a clumsy clearance attempt by Samuel and put the Goats up 1-0. The Galaxy tied it in the second half, but Chivas managed to steal a surprising tie. A similar thing happened July 4 at home against the Portland Timbers, when the Galaxy defense failed to clear a ball on two separate occasions in the second half, erasing a 1-0 lead to give the Timbers a 2-1 lead. The Galaxy were fortunate enough to have Timbers defender Rauwshan McKenzie put the ball in his own net in the final minutes to give the Galaxy one point.
It’s unrealistic to ask a defense to play flawlessly for the duration of a season. But several of the Galaxy’s costly mistakes have come from plays that are beneath them in situations in which they should have known better.
Perhaps some of the issues stem from the fact that this is a World Cup year and the team has been lacking synergy after missing its defensive stalwart, Omar Gonzalez, since the beginning of the U.S. National Team’s training camp.
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena put Wednesday’s loss to Man United into perspective at the postgame press conference by calling it “a real lesson for a lot of our players. You talk a lot about some of the things that happened tonight that they very rarely see, and tonight being on the field and getting punished for mistakes and really getting a lesson on speed of play. It was there, it was all out there for them. I think we can actually use this as a positive.”
Yes, that sounds like a coachspeak kind of statement, but there’s no denying there is a lot of truth to that. After all, clichés become clichés for a reason.
Arena also said he is unsure whether Gonzalez will play Monday against the MLS-leading Seattle Sounders. But given the fact that Monday’s game at Seattle will officially begin the second half of the season for the Galaxy, it’s time for the L.A. team to find consistency as they look to secure one of the top seeds in the Western Conference. If Gonzalez’s return can provide enough stability to give the Galaxy that synergy, Wednesday’s embarrassing loss could provide the perfect storm for the team to make a run in the second half of the season.
If the team goes on to make a great run in the MLS playoffs, there will be several factors they’ll look back upon as the reason for their success. But of all those factors and considering where they stand today, they’ll look back at this humiliating defeat as the primary catalyst that reignited their fire.