MLS Snapshot: LA Galaxy 2-1 FC Dallas

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One game, 100 words (or less): Dallas weathered LA’s dominant opening half to reach halftime even, eventually taking the lead through Blas Perez early in the second half. Though Robbie Keane quickly responded, the Galaxy had fallen victim to Oscar Pareja’s trap, failing to put Dallas away before the Toros came into the match.

In the 84th minute, the home side wriggled out of it. After Keane beat Adam Moffat just outside the left-side of the penalty box, a far post cross for Alan Gordon found the former Earthquake open at the far post. Heading down and across goal, the second half sub gave the Galaxy a 2-1 win, allowing LA to move even with Seattle atop the Western Conference.

Goals

LA Galaxy: Keane 62′, Gordon 84′
FC Dallas: Perez 54′

Three Four moments that mattered:

45′ – It’s still scoreless? – FC Dallas failed to test Jaime Penedo over the first 45 minutes. They were outshot 10-3 and saw Gyasi Zardes miss a 26th minute sitter. Playing without Fabian Castillo, Matt Hedges, and Diaz (starting on the bench), the team was dominated. The scoresheet, however, remained blank as the teams walked down StubHub Center’s tunnel.

54′ – That’s so Dallas – Keep FCD close, they’ll find a goal like this, even if they’ve been dominated for the first 54 minutes. They’ve become so good at it, any advantage implied by the run of play becomes irrelevant. Be it on the counter or via dead balls, FC Dallas has too many ways to render open play irrelevant.

Open play, however, was Dallas’s friend on Saturday, with play built down the Toros’ right allowing Blas Perez to drift wide and isolate Dan Gargan. On Andres Escobar’s floated cross, the Panamanian international was able to elevate over the LA fullback, giving the Toros a lead with their first shot on target.

62′ – Clear that, Victor – Victor Ulloa has been asked to carry a big load in his first full MLS campaign, and for most of the season, he’s played beyond the nine minutes’ experience he brought into the 2014 season. On a Gargan ball into the box, however, the 22-year-old midfielder took one touch too many, allowing Gyasi Zardes to win the ball off him to set up Keane to LA’s quick response.

84 ‘ – Patented move – It seems like we see this once per game from Keane. Matched up one-on-one with a defender, he’ll move the ball onto his right before dragging it across the defender, onto his left.

Usually Keane’s at such close range that this immediately leads to a shot, but on Saturday, it gave him a chance to chip a far post cross to Alan Gordon. Having creating room against Zach Lloyd, Gordon had an easy finish into the left of goal, one that gave LA full points on the night.

Lineups

LA Galaxy: Penedo; Gargan, Gonzalez, DeLaGarza, Rogers; Husidic (Ishizaki 62′), Sarvas, Juninho, Donovan; Keane, Zardes (Gordon 75′)
FC Dallas: Fernandez; Acosta, Watson, Loyd, Hernandez; Escober, Michel, Ulloa, Hollingshead (Diaz 55′, Benitez 83′); Perez, Akindele (Moffat 75′)

Three lessons going forward:

1. Looks will be deceiving with Dallas – The Dallas team that used Mauro Diaz’s through balls to climb to the top of the Western Conference this spring is unlikely to return. Instead, Oscar Pareja seems content to lean on a resolute defense, his counter attacking threat, and Michel’s set piece magic to carry them into the postseason.

The beauty of those strengths is the ability to win games without playing well; at least, play well by normal standards. Shots, possession, territorial measures are unlikely to go Dallas’s way, but as long as the Toros can adjust at halftime, find a way to win some corners, and lean in their strengths, they’ll be able to “steal”some results.

The only draw back, and it is a minor one: Nobody will consider them a real threat. Dallas will never look as good as LA, Real Salt Lake or Seattle, even though they’re capable to earning these types of results. If they want to win hearts and minds (and hopefully, they don’t care), this isn’t going to do it.

2. Gordo > Friendo – Bruce Arena brought in Rob Friend to do this. Instead, the former Canadian international seemed more interested in drawing theatrical endeavors than scoring goals. LA’s first hope of acquiring a big target man didn’t come off.

Alan Gordon, however, has been a gift. He’s fit in perfectly since migrating south from San Jose. Given the salary cap, the team’s needs, and Arena’s success with veteran players, LA couldn’t have asked for a better solution.

It’s become a bit of a lark around LA to say “I don’t know what San Jose let him go.” The reasons are clear enough. But just because Gordon no longer fit with the Earthquakes doesn’t mean he can’t be a difference-maker in Carson.

3. Dallas needs its stars – Mauro Diaz came and went tonight, being subbed off later after his introduction after halftime. Even if he’s fully fit at some point this season, the team has moved beyond being built around him. Dallas is claiming its points in different ways.

Those different ways almost require Matt Hedges and Fabian Castillo to be in the team. Hedges, the team’s new captain, is the key to a defense that has to support Pareja’s counter attacking approach. And the key to executing that approach? Castillo.

Where this leaves them:

  • Though Seattle has a game in hand, LA is not even on point with the Sounders. The duo sit atop the West and the league, with their season-ending, home-and-home series looming larger by the week. The Galaxy also clinched a playoff spot.
  • FC Dallas is settling into the number four spot. Four points back of Real Salt Lake, five points up on Portland, FCD seems destined to host the West’s four-five game.