Believe it or not, we are only at the halfway point of this 2012 MLS Western Conference Semifinal between Bruce Arena’s Los Angeles Galaxy and Frank Yallop’s San Jose Earthquakes. But already it’s turning out to be a very good one, although it had all the making of a scoreless draw for the first leg.
However, it’s the league’s best team that escapes Southern California with a 1-0 victory. As the scene shifts northward, we take a look at the six things we learned.
1. Wasteful finishing in the first half from LA
It must be very, very frustrating, if you’re a fan of the Los Angeles Galaxy. A lot of goals were left at the table due to no finishing touch whatsoever in the first half. Even more damning was the fact that they dominated in possession (63.5 percent to 36.5 percent), passing accuracy (52 percent to 47 percent) and duels won (52 percent to 47 percent).
Great teams in MLS are those who make opponents pay for not taking advantage of their opportunities. It would be up to the visitors from San Jose to prove that theory correct in the second half.
2. Bernadez with a shot heard around the world
And they did…but this was more Josh Saunders with rec-league goalkeeping. A surprise. And it took the fourth minute of stoppage time. Double surprise.
Victor Bernardez, who has been clutch with his set pieces all season, didn’t deliver the best of set piece volleys, but Saunders, who was having a decent game up until that point, surrendered a howler that is not going to earn much sympathy from the View from Avalon.
The question is…will that be costly in the end on Wednesday?
3. The stats don’t matter. Who would have guessed?
Sure, Los Angeles had more attempts on goal (12 to eight), more possession (57.4 percent to 42.6 percent), better passing (82 percent to 75 percent) and open play crosses (20 to 11). But historically this season, the team that win the stats wars…loses the game. So, the recurring them goes…the stats don’t matter.
4. San Jose struggles to victory
But this was also a disappointing effort for the San Jose Earthquakes. The likes of Steven Lenhart, Chris Wondolowski and Alan Gordon were held at bay in terms of production. The only players that really won this for the Quakers were the backline and goalkeeper Jon Busch, who only made two saves but earned his shutout the hard way.
5. Landon, David, where art thou?
Two players that were limited in their effectiveness were Landon Donovan and David Beckham. Beckham’s set piece deliveries were delivering pyrite instead of real gold, and Donovan himself was neutralized by the Earthquake midfielders effectively. The only designated player for LA that tried to do something was Robbie Keane, but his shot selection was off by meters.
That is football. It’s not just a game of inches. It’s also a game of meters.
6. A precarious advantage, but San Jose have the momentum
The San Jose Earthquakes, the presumptive favorites to replicate LA’s 2011 Double success, didn’t have to make it this hard on themselves to gain and edge and actually had to rely on the woodwork for some divine intervention, as well as non-clutch goalkeeping. But an advantage is an advantage, and with their success at home against the Galaxy, it’s the Quakes who have more to lose from this MLS Western Conference Semifinal.