What we learned vs. LA Galaxy
Bob Frid/Vancouver Whitecaps FC

What we learned vs. LA Galaxy

LA Galaxy took a third-minute lead and preserved it with a wonder save to beat our ‘Caps 1-0 Saturday at BC Place.

So what did we learn?

Landon Donovan scores third-minute winner

Next level

“That’s the kind of game that champions win,” Galaxy striker Landon Donovan said after the game. And in many ways, this quote sums up what happened on the night.

After Donovan punished the ‘Caps with a lethal finish in the third minute, the Galaxy were able to see out the rest of the match to earn themselves an important road win. It can be a harsh game sometimes and even though we put in a strong performance and certainly deserved more, we can learn from this LA team as we continue our fight to make the playoffs.

Who can forget last year in the playoffs when we got the early goal against the Galaxy and had a chance to go 2-0 late in the match? Of course, that did not happen as the Galaxy scored two late goals and went on to repeat as MLS Cup champions.

There’s a small difference between a good team and a great team – between a great team and a championship team. If we can learn something from Saturday’s match, then we can be closer to our own goals and dreams.

Andy O'Brien post-match comments

O’Brien’s back

The result was a disappointment, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the performance was a good one – thanks in part to the return of centre back Andy O’Brien.

Not only were we playing a Galaxy team that has won back-to-back MLS Cups, but we were also up against two in-form Designated Players: Donovan and Irish international Robbie Keane, who were coming off back-to-back hat-tricks. These are two of the top forwards in Major League Soccer we’re talking about.

Yes, Donovan scored a wonder goal that most strikers could not have finished from that position, but for the rest of the game they were kept in check by some stellar defending – led by O’Brien.

With just nine matches remaining, it’s going to be hard on the nerves as we look to make the post-season. This this is where experience comes into play. Having O’Brien back in the lineup is huge especially with three road matches coming up. As seen Saturday against LA, we are a much stronger team with his presence at the back.

Manneh hits the woodwork, Penedo huge stop on the rebound

Bench strength

Conceding an early goal really put us back on our heels and gave the Galaxy a lift in the first half. With that in mind, Martin Rennie made a tactical switch in the second half, replacing Matt Watson with Kekuta Manneh and switching from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 formation.

This really stretched LA across the pitch and allowed our ‘Caps to attack them on both wings. It had the desired effect, as we really put LA under pressure for most of the second half. If it wasn’t for an incredible save from Galaxy keeper Jaime Penedo, we would have walked away with a well-deserved point from this game.

Saturday’s match showed that Rennie has the personnel on the bench to change the game if he deems it necessary, and that will be a nice luxury with the final stretch of the season upon us.