On Sunday evening, LA Galaxy, already underachieving in third place in the Western Conference, failed to secure a play-off berth with a 4-2 home defeat to the Seattle Sounders at the StubHub Center. The SoCal outfit will now look to the Supporters’ Shield to salvage silverware from their waning campaign.
Bruce Arena’s side has won more MLS Cups than any other team in the league, and the Galaxy’s tradition for leaving qualification until late in the season meant that the arrival of September with no play-off berth created more of an inconvenience than a desperate call to arms. LA famously has the highest win rate of any other MLS team post-September 1st – and were 5/1 favourites for the Cup in the Bet365 MLS betting on Sunday afternoon.
On the other hand, words like ‘desperate’, ‘improbable’, and ‘flagging’ accompanied the write-up to Seattle’s play-off hopes in the press, which says everything about who the bookies expected to emerge victorious on the night. Seattle have been awkward on the road (3-8-4) of late and are missing linchpin, Clint Dempsey.
Let’s not forget that LA went in to Sunday’s match unbeaten at home all season (and unbeaten by the Sounders at the StubHub since 2009 – eleven straight encounters) and it’d be easy to ignore the performance of Seattle’s super-rookie, Jordan Morris, and chalk up the whole result up to overconfidence on the part of Los Angeles.
However, the Galaxy simply aren’t the machine they used to be, as evidenced by the fact that LA brought Landon Donovan out of a two-year, largely soccer-free, retirement to inspire the ranks and cover an injury crisis brought on by knocks to Gyasi Zardes, Jelle Van Damme, and a player two years his senior in Steven Gerrard.
At that point, two weeks ago, Los Angeles had only won one game in eight meetings, and had only just re-introduced Brian Rowe and Robbie Rogers back into the team following their own respective injuries.
On Sunday, LA dominated in the statistics against the Sounders but Robbie Keane and Giovani Dos Santo’s penchant for tripping over each other squandered what could have been an excellent opportunity for Los Angeles. Dos Santos has only scored one of his fourteen goals with Keane on the pitch – the two players cancel each other out.
Alan Gordon is a much more productive partner for either Keane or Dos Santos; the latter player has a tendency to play behind Keane, reducing his effectiveness going forward, while Gordon is a more traditional center forward. Perhaps more to the point, Dos Santos and Keane hadn’t been on the same pitch in a month.
Both Keane and Dos Santos are excellent players in their own right but the Mexican is not creative enough to support his team mate – and doesn’t seem to want to; he only found the Irishman with three passes against the Sounders on Sunday night, and only managed one (of thirty total) in a dangerous position.
Elsewhere, New York Red Bulls, Toronto, and Dallas have already clinched their play-off spots, alongside NYCFC, whose qualification made franchise history. Dallas are currently the favourites for the title in the odds, at 4/1, closely followed by the 6/1 Toronto.