Seattle Sounders vs. LA Galaxy: 5 Things We Learned
The Seattle Sounders lost for the second time in their last three games, as the Los Angeles Galaxy crushed the hosts 3-0 at CenturyLink Field on Monday night. Thanks to that win, LA catapulted into a playoff spot, sitting third in the Western Conference. Seattle remains on top with a six-point gap between second place Real Salt Lake with a game in hand.
The Sounders have now lost six of their last seven regular-season meetings against the Galaxy.
However, head coach Sigi Schmid didn't have center back Chad Marshall available due to back spasms from a car accident. His absence was felt as Gyasi Zardes opened the scoring, and LA didn't look back.
Here are five things we learned from Monday's match.
1. Galaxy Are Experiencing Their Usual Second-Half Burst in Form
For the last few years, the LA Galaxy have always hit their stride in the second half of the season. At around the halfway point of the 2013 season, LA was lodged in between a bunch of teams in the West. They finished third at the end of the campaign.
This time, it's no different. Monday's game was more the Galaxy dominating than it was the Sounders playing poorly. The hosts were poor, no question, but LA began strongly and never took its foot off the gas.
The rest of MLS should be on high alert. The Galaxy are a scary team down the stretch and are always in the discussion for MLS Cup. The way they toyed with one of the top teams in the league sent a message to every future opponent.
2. The Galaxy's 4-2-2-2 Works Wonders
LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena has found a way to get the most out of all of his midfielders and attackers.
According to the official MLS website, LA lined up in a 4-2-2-2 formation. It was clearly giving Seattle's midfield two of Gonzalo Pineda and Osvaldo Alonso a lot of problems. Robbie Keane withdrew as a third attacking midfielder, with Gyasi Zardes operating up front.
That allowed the likes of Landon Donovan, Stefan Ishizaki and Marcelo Sarvas to burst forward whenever they saw those opportunities.
That's how the first goal was created. Keane dropped deeper, moving Zach Scott out of position. Then, Donovan made a run and laid it off to Zardes, who finished the chance.
Sarvas released a shot from distance after no one closed him down, which Donovan converted on the rebound. It was an interchanging formation where every player was able to contribute in the attack. Even fullbacks Robbie Rogers and Dan Gargan were helping.
Arena may have found another winning formula.
3. Chad Marshall Is the Glue That Holds Everything Together for Seattle
Zach Scott and Jalil Anibaba were woeful on Monday. Scott was Chad Marshall's replacement, and the 34-year-old failed to contain LA's attack. It's further proof that Marshall is a standout on the Sounders squad.
The team hopes that Marshall's injury isn't long term. If it is, Seattle is in trouble. The team has conceded 27 goals, which is the fifth highest amount in the Western Conference and sixth in MLS.
Marshall is the third-highest rated player on WhoScored.com and is the top defender on the list. He's made 17 appearances and has very rarely made mistakes. Considering that the club had to deal with a center back partnership of Djimi Traore and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado last year, they won't want to experience the same issues at the back.
For as long as Marshall is out, Seattle could suffer through performances like the one from Monday night.
4. Martins and Dempsey Failed When the Sounders Needed Them to Produce
The Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey partnership has been a success for most of the 2014 MLS season. That's why Seattle have a league-high 12 wins and have scored the joint-highest amount of goals with 35, per MLSSoccer.com.
However, when the Seattle Sounders conceded, both players slowly faded out of the game entirely. According to MLSSoccer.com, Martins had just one shot and Dempsey had four, with two hitting the target.
The argument is that they didn't get any service, but that isn't true.
Dempsey recorded 65 touches, and Martins had 52, per WhoScored.com. By comparison, Landon Donovan had 63, Stefan Ishizaki had 54, Robbie Keane had 61 and Gyasi Zardes had 41.
The other issue was Seattle's narrow play. Marco Pappa and Lamar Neagle weren't involved, while the central midfield duo of Osvaldo Alonso and Gonzalo Pineda were everywhere. Once the former two were replaced, the attack was slightly more dangerous, but by that point, the match was over.
Dempsey and Martins have to do better, but it would benefit them if the ball was spread out wide to alleviate the pressure in the center and to make some room for the two forwards.
5. Western Conference Is Tight
This match was a reminder that Seattle has weaknesses and that the LA Galaxy are still a legitimate powerhouse in MLS. Once more, the Western Conference is a logjam and will probably be that way until the end of the regular season.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the top team in the West (Seattle) and the seventh-place club (Portland) are separated by 11 points. The Timbers are also just three point away from the playoffs despite some poor first-half performances.
Vancouver, Dallas, Colorado and LA's postseason statuses are still up in the air, but with 13-16 games left, a lot can change. However, it will probably come down to the last few fixtures of the season again.