LA Galaxy beat Atlanta United 2-0 on Sunday to get off a three-game losing streak, but the scoreline served to paper over some cracks apparent in recent performances.
To take things down to the most simple level possible: when your goalkeeper is arguably the man of the match, you've probably been flattered by the scoreline. Jonathan Bond was very impressive between the sticks, but it was his performance – and a 96th minute goal when the game was over as a contest – which made the win look commanding.
Kevin Cabral set the tone early when he celebrated reaching 1,000 minutes of MLS action this season by scoring his first goal of the campaign, a sentence which should highlight just how much the French number 9 has struggled for form this season (until about midway through this month he had more yellow and red cards [one of each] than goals or assists [none]).
The goal, when it came, was scrappy as hell. Douglas Costa cut the ball back across the box to Chicharito, back from health and safety protocols, who put his short straight at young Atlanta goalkeeper Rocco Ríos Novo.
LA Galaxy beat Atlanta United 2-0 on Sunday
Whether it was bad luck or inexperience (Novo only turned 20 last month), the save was fumbled straight to Cabral, whose positioning at the back post was less 'waiting for the chance' and more 'had started celebrating what he thought was a Chicharito goal and was in the right place by accident'.
Between that, Atlanta's strong foothold in the game and further weak goalkeeping for Dejan Joveljic's injury time strike to put the final touches on the win, it's hard to look at this performance and see a team that's turning its poor on-field levels around. However, their luck may be turning, and that can be as much of a force for improvement as quality.
Are there any tangible positives to take away though, besides the three points and the abstract concept of 'luck' being on the Galaxy's side? Yes, as it happens.
First, that performance by Jonathan Bond. It might not bode well for the team that he had to play so well, but the fact that he succeeded and kept just his second clean sheet in 11 games represents a real win for a player who's struggled for prolonged periods this season.
Second, Douglas Costa showing that he could yet be worth the $3m a year being put in his pocket by the club. It's been a full two months since his last standout performance and, while he finished without a goal or assist, his near-flawless 98% pass completion and overall impact on the game was much more in line with what fans expected when he arrived at the start of the season.
So, not all doom and gloom. Just...don't go out and get the 'MLS Cup Champions 2022' hats made yet.