Seattle 0-1 Los Angeles: MLS Match Review

The 2011 Major League Soccer season opened with a rainy affair at Qwest Field. The LA Galaxy got the best of Seattle in this meeting, 0-1, to christen a new season in front of a national audience.

Starting Formations

While ESPN’s coverage claimed 4-4-2’s for both teams, in reality Seattle fielded what was more of a three forward set, with Steve Zakuani and Fredy Montero playing wingers and O’Brien White the center forward. Fernandez played more of a shuttler’s role, centrally focused while defending, then providing the most width on the attack.

For LA, their 4-4-2 did not feature new signee Juan Pablo Angel up front, but rather Mike Magee and Chad Barrett. Last year’s Goalkeeper of the Year, Donovan Ricketts, was unavailable and thus Josh Saunders got the nod in net.

The tempo of the game in the first 30 minutes was frenetic, and really seemed to restrict quality opportunity. Both teams desired to use one-touch passing to gain the advantage on attack, but the passes often lacked the accuracy necessary to sustain. The majority of quality chances came to Seattle, especially as the half progressed and they had success leaning on the Dunivant/Leonardo side. Fernandez did well carrying the ball past Dunivant on the right, and his crosses created several excellent opportunities for White and Montero. The overriding theme for Seattle this evening became the lack of finishing sparkle, especially from their designated player.

The best of LA’s offensive chances came on the set piece, and they nearly opened the scoring when Beckham took a free kick from 27 yards, but the curling effort skimmed the crossbar above the right corner. The teams entered the half at 0-0.

After the half, it was clear that Bruce Arena had seen a hole in the Seattle midfield. Beckham had a lot of space to run, perhaps because of Zakuani being so high up the pitch. Arena switched the wing midfielders, to allow Donovan to exploit that space. This did seem to open up the LA attack more, but neither team broke through until Juninho put his foot through a ball from 25 yards, which knuckled towards the net from the left. Kasey Keller got a hand on it, but it wasn’t enough, and LA took the lead.

At this point, LA rolled back the extra wing, and defensively sat in two level banks of 4. Seattle coach Sigi Schmid seemed to spend the rest of the game finding a way to get Montero involved in the action. He brought on Roger Levesque, who in my mind inexplicably came on for Fernandez (who had been the best Sounder at carrying the attack into the final third). Montero shifted to left wing, and Zakuani was stuffed into the central midfield. Eventually, Miguel Montano came on for Zakuani, and Montero assumed a midfield role. It is unclear whether this was to help with the attack flow through central midfield, or if it was a response to his lack of influence within the match.

80th Minute

Los Angeles responded to their 1-0 lead by retreating into a defensive 4-5-1 formation with Donovan as the lone striker. This was afforded by subbing out both Magee and Barrett for midfielders Michael Stephens and Jovan Jirovski, respectively. Aside from a few squandered chances by Seattle, the Galaxy defense proved up for the task to hold the decisive one-goal lead to close out the match.

In my opinion, Seattle’s offense became less dangerous as soon as Fernandez was taken out. Levesque and Erik Friberg were ineffective in creating the same opportunities that Fernandez opened up through the wide play. Part of this was due to LA being able to nurse the cushion they owned, but also it seemed that Friberg’s quality was lacking.

And I did pick on the Sounders’ forwards for lack of finishing ability, but let’s not forget that the Galaxy also suffered from the same malaise in this match. One of the talking points about this team is finding goals without Edson Buddle. Barrett and Magee were not productive in the front, although Barrett did seem to have some solid passes to link up play. In that regard, I’d think he might work well with Angel up front as a proven scorer.

An entertaining match, and I’m excited to be able to bring these tactical reviews to you at least weekly for this season. Hoping this edifies the readership here on Major League Soccer Talk, and if you have suggestions, please feel free to chime in. I plan to spread the love around, so as to speak, so be on the lookout for your favorite team in the future!

35 thoughts on “Seattle 0-1 Los Angeles: MLS Match Review”

  1. also Magee has never been productive, he’s the miracle of the MLS! How can a guy so worthless still play not for only any club but arguable one of the top clubs of the league!

  2. Please let there be good ratings! I’m sick of having to see disappointing numbers. How much more can the league do, considering its limited resources?

  3. It’s interesting that you say that Friberg was poor, because an ESPN article about the match says that Friberg was the Sounders best man on the field except for one bad pass. I fell asleep for a large portion of the game because of the late start time, so I don’t know who to believe!!

    1. I thought Fernandez was better. Friberg did well when he was the anchor man in central midfield. Once he became more of a right-side shuttler (after the Levesque entry), I thought his impact diminished greatly. There were other factors that contributed to that as well, so it’s not entirely fair to pick on Friberg. LA clearly had 1-0 in mind once they scored. So Beckham and Dunivant both both retreated into the mode of defensive security, and that clamped down on a lot of what had worked relatively well for Seattle in the first 70 minutes.

        1. Absolutely Charles. My article may have made it sound like he played poorly throughout the match, but my comment was only in regards to the final 20 or so minutes. Friberg had a good overall game.

  4. One thing I should have touched on, but didn’t, was Seattle’s release of Blaise Nkufo. He was certainly earmarked to be a contributor up front this season, but his age and past injury problems may explain the move.

    So to me, having Zakuani be a third forward was Schmid’s response to try and ratchet up the pressure on the LA defense, and also provide more opportunities around the goal since O’Brien White is still finding that finishing touch.

    Finally, I’d call Seattle’s formation a 4-3-3. Others have listed as 4-1-3-2, but my concern with this is that I thought Alonso-Friberg-Fernandez were quite organized centrally. Zakuani was much more free to float forward, and in fact if he had been tied more to the Friberg-Fernandez layer he may have been in better position to clamp down on Beckham (and later Donovan).

  5. Interesting that Donovan and Beckham switched flanks. Donovan seems well suited to it, but I can’t imagine Beckham being any where as effective on the left. I didn’t actually see the game though – did it work? Did Beckham do anything from the left?

    1. He was very quiet in the second half, compared to being rather influential in the first half. Perhaps he was a bit put-off by being asked to switch sides for Donovan. He did take a cynical lunge at someone late if I recall.

      1. It seems a strange move to put Beckham on the left. It pretty much negates his trademark skill (or only) skill – namely his ability to hit dangerous crosses and long balls. His left foot is MUCH better than it used to be, but still nothing like his right foot.

        Also, he doesn’t have the pace or dribbling ability to be an “inside out winger”.

        I think if you’re a manager and you’re going to move Beckham away from the right flank, then it has to be to a central position rather than a left one. Even if that means playing a normally “central” player on the left to accomodate him.

    2. Beckh made some good passes in the first half, so did Neagle at the end of the game, but noone here is going to talk about him. They will all talk about Beckham.
      Sorry, a little touchy this AM after the loss.

  6. Earl Reed, thanks for the great post.

    Don’t be defensive about people commenting in this section, you know what you are talking about. People may not agree, that might mean they don’t know what they are talking about, or it may mean you just disagree.

    – Zakuani needs to want it more.
    – White > NKufo….but still didn’t finish.
    – Sounders had 5 new faces from the starting team that won so much in the second half last year.
    – LA is good, but both teams were sloppy more than they were well a oiled machine, that was especially true for the Sounders.

    1. im sorry but i disagree.

      White is NOT better than NKufo, i dont know where u are getting that from. He was shit for Toronto last year and the only game he played for your squad so far has not proven anything

      LA was sloppy but they also had a lot of 2nd string players and honestly Seattle was horrible conditions, rain and turf dont work. gosh i wish you guys would get some freaking grass. its the pac nw, arent you supposed to have the best grass? 😉

    2. had nothing to do with zakuani needing to want it more, he is nursing an injury from the previous weeks supporter’s shield game against colorado, It showed cause his blazing speed was just not there, he may not even start against NY.

  7. After watching twenty players run around like a bunch of chichens with their heads cut off for ninety minutes I realized how much the EPL has spoiled me during the MLS off season. :-)

    1. That’s the same way I felt after watching Bundesliga, Serie A, and La Liga for the past few months. I realized how much EPL sucks in comparison. Either way, you must not have watched the opening of the EPL season where everyone outside the top 3 played like crap. I guess I am just spoiled by good leagues. Sigh. Aside from a couple of good players and a couple of good teams, EPL is a pile of crap. I’d have more respect for those insulting MLS at every turn if they watched a better league.

          1. I just get tired of this whole “EPL is the best league on the planet” crap on MLS blogs. I should stop feeding the trolls.

          2. Dave C, you can say YAWN all you want, but I done watching my kids play, after watching Barca dismantle Arsenal, I can’t go back to EPL, MLS, or youth soccer.

            I am spoiled.

      1. Obviously you don’t know your football if you honestly believe that. Either way, I said that to be absurd just like all these EPL fanboys that post on an MLS blog about how great their league is when there are arguably better leagues. If ANYBODY can honestly say that the other top 4 euro Leagues can’t compete or outshine EPL, let alone other leagues in the world, then I feel sorry for them as a soccer fan and they lose a lot of credibility. Seriously, it is a lame argument on an MLS blog. I doubt on Brazil Talk or Australia Talk or Japan Talk or any other blog (obviously I am not being serious) that they cut down their domestic league because it is not EPL. Just a guess, but I’m willing to bet they don’t. The MLS just sucks and EPL is the only thing worth watching in these moron’s minds in this WORLD sport. Support constructively, not tear down like a snob.

  8. O’Brien White was in vintage TFC form last night. Looks clumsy with the ball and gives it away and stifles his own team’s attacks.

    Expect lots and lots of that from him.

  9. Overall, a good start to the season given the circumstances. Injuries, sickness, and surprise releases probably hurt things a little bit. I watched RSL beat Saprissa simultaneously. Another decent game. I thought Beckham played decent. Donovan didn’t seem to have much of a presence. The first half seemed to be all Sounders. The second half is where the Galaxy picked up. Honestly, the game could have gone either way. Everyone looked a tad rusty, but that is to be expected. I think this could potentially be the best season so far.

    1. I think the Sounders have fallen off quite a bit from where they were at the end of last season.
      LA still has their number, but more than that…

      Then I realized 5 of the 10 field players were different. Very good players, they will work out.

      LA same thing with the injuries. First game, rainy, new teams, a little sloppy, sure but it was an exciting game at least.

  10. The most important skill in soccer is FIRST TOUCH. Montero is all flash with zero skill. Sigi needs to crack down on that kid and say, “look, you can’t wear flashy boots, flashy haircuts until you start scoring some goals.” Must MLS continue to recruit players with wooden feet?

    1. Great attendance. It should be named SOCCER CITY!

      As once said Obdulio Varela (capitain of 1950 Uruguay) to his teammates in front of 200,000 (not a typo) Brazilians in Maracanã:

      – Los de afuera son de palo. (Those outside are made of wood)

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