Our 'Caps fought hard on the road against a very good LA Galaxy team. The Blue and White had some chances to go ahead in the first half but were thwarted by Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo before Robbie Keane snuck one in early in the second half to hand our boys a 1-0 defeat.
So what did we learn?
Youngsters with no fear
There would have been a few raised eyebrows when the lineup was announced and veteran players Kenny Miller and Nigel Reo-Coker were on the bench, leaving our 'Caps with a very young lineup. A front line featuring Darren Mattocks, Kekuta Manneh, and Sebastian Fernandez, and a holding midfield duo of Gershon Koffie and Russell Teibert presented head coach Carl Robinson with a very young front six - an average age of 23.35. Despite that youth, they showed they belonged against one of the best teams in MLS.
The first half showed a solid performance that was only missing a goal. It was plain to see that we were not going sit back and defend the whole game. They closed the spaces down quickly and did not allow the Galaxy to get into too much of a rhythm. They slowed down most of the Galaxy counter attacks, which are Keane and Donovan’s bread and butter, and they created enough good chances to get rewards for a good first half but were denied by Penedo. Yes they came up short, but they gave it their all and showed no fear in front of a fierce foe in their own backyard.
If there was a team we wanted to model ourselves after you could not go wrong looking at LA Galaxy. Yes, it's a luxury having a Donovan or Keane, but the way the entire squad plays the game and control the tempo makes them a team to admire. You have seen flashes of the way Robinson wants his team to play and as I have said before, it’s a work in progress and we will get better and hopefully to the level the Galaxy are playing at. LA have not changed their style over the years and they showed against our 'Caps that they will be a team to be reckoned with again this MLS season. They are composed playing out of the back, creative through the midfield, and dynamic in the final third. To play and defeat the Galaxy you also have to possess the ball well and deny them the ball as much as you can. We had some success in the first half, but we really found the going tough in the second half because we did not take care of the ball and ended up chasing the game too much.
There is no reason to give up on the way the coaching staff want this team to play when we have the ball, and we will get another close look at a good model to emulate when LA come to BC Place next weekend.
There is a lot of responsibility playing as a holding midfielder and the role demands a lot of discipline. Playing on the road against a top team, including Keane and Donovan who excel on the counter attack, is a big test for anybody's game. And that's what made Russell’s Budweiser Man of the Match performance even more impressive. We know the engine he possesses, but this role required him to be more conservative and not bomb up and down the field, which would be foreign to his natural game. But that's what he did, protecting the back four, denying space to the opposing midfielders, and making sure Donovan and Keane could not start their lightning counter attacks that are so crucial to the Galaxy game.
This was a different Teibert on the field, it was a player who played a difficult role against one of the best teams in MLS with so much maturity.