If it wasn’t for one second half slip and a great, late strike from Kekuta Manneh, we would be hailing this as LA’s best performance of 2014, asking whether the tweaks Bruce Arena’s made during the season’s first seven weeks have quickly fused to produce a Western Conference contender. But those two things did happen, leaving us asking a different question: How did the Galaxy not win this game? After taking two leads in Vancouver and looking the mildly better side, LA was left drawn, 2-2.
The numbers don’t show a lopsided affair — the Galaxy with an edge in shots on target (6-5), but Vancouver lead in total shots (17-14) and possession — but that’s more an indication of game state than the teams’ quality. Starting with Stefan Ishizaki’s 38th minute opener, LA led 39 of the final 52 minutes, allowing Whitecaps to make up the numbers while chasing the game. That chase ultimately paid off in the 86th minute when Manneh’s superb 19-yard shot found Jaime Penedo’s lower-left corner.
It was the type of goal Vancouver should be producing more often, with LA’s defense drawn to Darren Mattocks before the Jamaican attacker laid off for one of his myriad talented teammates. For most of the game, however, LA had been able to avoid such scenarios. An energetic performance that pressured the Whitecaps defense allowed the Galaxy to play the game on its own terms. Instead of letting a talented Vancouver attack and midfield turn the game into a track beat, LA kept the Whitecaps under control.
There were, however, three notable exceptions. After dictating the first 15-or-so minutes, LA allowed Vancouver to temporarily gain control of the game, something that went for naught when Ishizaki beat David Ousted inside his left post for the game’s opening goal. From that point forward, the teams played on even footing, though a 67th minute error from Penedo left (unable to claim a ball Leonardo was shielding from Mattocks) gave the Vancouver forward a chance to finish into an open net.
The last exception was the end game, where a LA team trying to hold on to its 2-1 lead gave Mattocks time on the ball. Standing off the speedy attacker, Landon Donovan allowed Mattocks to cut back to his right foot, giving him a clear path to find the oncoming Manneh. Superbly struck, the shot gave Penedo no chance to prevent the late equalizer.
In the big picture, one point in Vancouver is a good result, but given how the game was played, LA should be left regretting two points lost. But was is so often the case in this sport, today’s affair was about a few moments, not the 90-minute struggle. Those moments allowed the Whitecaps to salvage a result.