LA Galaxy miss out on three vital points in loss at Vancouver

Galaxy miss out

Vancouver – The Los Angeles Galaxy miss out on three vital points and an opportunity to move back up the table into a playoff position in a tightly-packed Western Conference after their 3-0 loss away to Vancouver Whitecaps Wednesday night. After their Western neighbors like Real Salt Lake had done them favors by dropping points, the Galaxy held plenty of possession to begin, almost 70% in the first half, but could not find the goal despite having plenty of opportunities. 

LA Galaxy miss out on three vital points in loss at Vancouver Whitecaps

Vancouver, who the Galaxy beat 5-2 just last month, made LA pay for their wastefulness by scoring two goals in 11 second-half minutes. The goals quickly turned the game on its head and essentially put all three desperately needed points beyond LA’s grasp. 

The result leaves them dangerously close to missing the playoffs again, with only four match days left. If you’re keeping track, that would make three consecutive seasons and the fifth time in the past six years, LA would’ve done so.

Los Angeles Galaxy Head Coach Greg Vanney claimed after the match that it was always going to come down to “transitions and set-pieces.” Vanney was correct, as his side gave up one set-piece goal and two to devastating counterattacks in transition. And despite the Galaxy usually fighting back and picking up a goal or two late to make it interesting, there would be no late-game heroics in Canada.

Familiar failings 

It’s no secret. The Galaxy has trouble creating and putting away their chances on offense. On the defensive end, they boast a defense that’s given up at least three goals eight different times this season. That isn’t exactly the recipe needed for winning. 

In the first half, Los Angeles seemed to be trying to pass Vancouver to death, with most of the action in the home side’s own half. It amounted to very little other than plenty of possession. Despite having the Galaxy camped in their own defensive third, Whitecaps Goalkeeper Thomas Hasal had very little to do, facing only two shots on goal all game.   

Vanney made sure to call out the Galaxy’s wastefulness postgame.

What to do with all that possession?

“Especially with the amount of possession we’ve had the last couple games, we’ve left too many opportunities to be dangerous on the table and teams are… we’re not ruthless enough in that final piece to put these teams away. But, that’s what it is. Has that been some of the problem for the season? Yeah, that’s been one of them,” a clearly frustrated Vanney confessed.  

A constant inability by the Galaxy to press their advantages, like in the first half, has been one of the biggest culprits all season and could be the reason the Galaxy end up missing the playoffs in the end. 

“We do get there sometimes, but then we don’t make the best cross. We don’t put the ball in the right place. We don’t finish the chance. It’s the connection of all those things, when you destabilize, to when you finish, it’s the connection of two or three passes that have to be done well and right, and at the right time, in order for things to end up in the back of the net. And more times than we should, we’re coming up short on some of those.”

And it has the Galaxy in danger of coming up short of a playoff berth…

Defense, or is it?

Fingers can’t be pointed solely at the offense. On the defensive end, the Galaxy once again fell into their routine of conceding a goal and then conceding another. Two Vancouver goals within 11 minutes in the second half broke the Galaxy’s chokehold on the game and flipped the script. Los Angeles could never recover.

Against the run of play, Vancouver scored their first on 57 minutes for the 1-0 lead.

After a wonderful save by Galaxy keeper Jonathan Bond, his defense failed to clear the loose ball from the Whitecaps corner. The ball fell to winger Ryan Gauld, whose deft first touch set him up for a half volley at the near post that Bond could not handle. 

The Galaxy immediately tried to hit back and forced Vancouver to absorb more pressure. And this is where Vancouver, like many teams before them, struck. 

Just 11 minutes after Gauld’s opener, a devastating lighting-quick counterattack in transition by the Whitecaps had carved LA’s defense apart again.

After losing the ball deep in their own offensive half, Ecuadorian midfielder Pedro Vite picked up the ball and switched the play to the left flank. He continued his run while Luis Martins moved the ball up the left wing. Martins’ cross was flicked on by Brian White to Vite, who had only to push the ball home with no one covering him at the back post for the 2-0 Vancouver lead.

Chasing the game, again…again

With the Galaxy down 2-0 and chasing the game, they would concede a third goal and the final nail in the coffin, on 85 minutes to another well-worked Vancouver counterattack in transition. Substitute Julian Gressel played a peach of a ball over the top of the Galaxy defense to fellow sub Tosaint Ricketts, who received the ball in acres of space. Having only Bond to beat, Ricketts calmly slotted the ball low and right into Bond’s goal for the 3-0 final.

When presented with the Galaxy’s goals against, defender Derrick Williams claimed it was “nowhere near good enough” and that “it hurt” to hear it laid so plainly. 

“We need standards,” Williams implored his teammates.

“We were just six unbeaten, but we need to turn some of these draws into wins and our season is on the line now, so we have to do it. If we don’t do it, we don’t deserve it, so let’s go. We’re ready.”

Could LA really miss the playoffs again?

Williams claims the Galaxy is “ready” for the playoffs. 

A simple check might prove that false. Dating back to early July, LA has won just three of their last 13 matches (3W-6L-4D) since early July. In their last six games, they’ve claimed just one victory in that period. 

Their wastefulness at not being able to take the opportunity to move up the table with results falling kindly their way left them outside the playoff picture again.

“Again, it’s a mentality that we have to turn – turning draws into wins and things like that – and it’s time for us to press forward on that,” Vanney explained. “It’s the thing that we discuss a lot with our group: taking that next big step forward to turn possession into attacks, turn attacks into goals, put teams away, move up the table. It’s all the same thing. It’s a mentality.” 

With four games remaining, the Galaxy languishes in eighth place and three points off seventh-place Real Salt Lake for the last playoff spot in the West.

A lifeline, but a small one

The Galaxy’s only lifeline; a game in hand over most of their Western foes.

Should the Galaxy miss the postseason, it’ll mark the second year running they’ve failed to reach the playoffs under Vanney. And like last year, it’ll come down to a bunch of key opportunities missed and, as the second-year coach claims, “mentality.” Fancy a penalty, anyone?

“Similar to last year, we shouldn’t even be in this position,” Williams expressed. “Today (Vancouver away) was a perfect example; we dominate the ball, don’t create the chances, they score a goal, and then things fall apart. It’s frustrating, but we have to get on with it.”

As frustrating as it is for the club, it leaves the fan base fearing another season of watching the playoffs from the couch.

Next up…

Now every game becomes a “must-win.” The Galaxy plays their next “final” when they host the Colorado Rapids on Saturday, Sept. 17. 

Head photo with LA Galaxy permission.