Now that we've had a few days to let Saturday's loss digest, I figured it was a good time to take a final look at Saturday's game.
Most of what I found won't be much of a surprise: Peter Vagenas had a really bad day, the game really fell apart after Osvaldo Alonso went out and the Galaxy absolutely dominated the second half.
I did find one strand of silver lining, though. Prior to Alonso's injury, even during the roughly 10-minute stretch between the Galaxy score and Alonso's leaving, the Sounders honestly looked like the better team.
It wasn't just that they possessed the ball -- of that it was blatantly obvious -- it was that they actually created several very good scoring opportunities.
A combination of good plays by Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, a very questionable offsides call and good, old-fashioned near misses combined to send the Sounders into the half without a goal.
The second half was another story. While Alonso had allowed the team to control the midfield, his absence was apparent almost immediately. By the time Omar Gonzalez scored a perfectly placed header off a corner kick in the 52nd minute, the Galaxy had already started to take control of the match.
The final two goals of the match were simply ugly displays of defense, ones which I hope we can simply chalk up to frustration over a match that had started so promising and ended up so deflating.
Before the game began to unravel, though, there were some highlights.
The clearest scoring opportunity came in the 14th minute when Freddie Ljungberg chipped a ball to Fredy Montero who had gotten well free of his mark inside the box.
As the picture above pretty clearly shows, Montero (top right hand side of the box) was a good step or two onside when Ljungberg delivered his pass. What I think fooled the referee (and the LA announcers, for that matter) was the fact that Ljungberg's floating ball stayed so long in the air and the Galaxy defenders had so committed to the offsides trap that Montero was a good five or six yards beyond the closest defender when he finally got the ball at his feet.
If the play had been properly called, he had Brad Evans sitting wide open in front of the goal with what should have been the easiest goal of the season.
(Hopefully this is not interpreted as an excuse for the loss, as I'll show, the Sounders had other chances to score and made plenty of legitimate mistakes that ultimately cost them this game. The point of highlighting this was to show that the Sounders actually were looking pretty good early in the match.)
In the 18th minute, Montero once again found himself with space behind the Galaxy defense, this time on a nice pass from Vagenas. Montero fires a one-touch volley, but Ricketts is able make the save and a Galaxy defender is able to beat Evans to the rebound and knock it out of bounds.
Shortly after the Jovan Kirovski score, the Sounders had another strong scoring chance when Steve Zakuani made a nice play to win a ball on the edge of the penalty area. Zakuani then left a pass for the charging Alonso, whose shot was fired just over the crossbar.
Finding these nuggets of optimism took a little looking, admittedly. Unfortunately, it was much easier to pinpoint the mistakes that led to three of the Galaxy's four goals (I really couldn't find much that could have been done differently to prevent Gonzalez's goal).
Most of the blame for Kirovski's goal has already been accepted by Kasey Keller. The world-class keeper probably makes that save 98 out of 100 times -- there were no players around him, he had a clear look at the ball, he was able to get both of his hands on it -- but that doesn't necessarily mean he was totally at fault.
How Kirovski was able to get that clean of a look also deserves some examination.
The sequence starts innocently enough with Ricketts launching one of his trademark kicks all the way to the opposing penalty area. The ball gets loose and Alonso is forced to kick out of bounds.
The throw-in occurs only a few yards in front of the centerline, but makes it all the way to Landon Donovan who is standing about 10 yards outside penalty area. He touches it back to Michael Stephens, who then drops it back to Kirovski who is already on a run toward the goal. Kirovski is able to get the ball in space and fires a shot before even having to dribble.
The breakdown here is probably with Vagenas, who appears to be the man marking Kirovski. Vagenas is late picking up Kirovski as he starts his run just after the throw-in and is never able to catch up, allowing Kirovski an unobstructed look at the goal.
Although Vagenas also appears to be the man Gonzalez beats on the corner, I really don't think there was much he could have done about that one. Gonzalez has about nine inches and 50 pounds on the 5-8, 160-pound Vagenas, and Gonzalez uses every inch of his height to get that ball.
The third goal is probably the one that Vagenas most regrets. Donovan has a free kick from just outside the left corner of the penalty area. He sends a ball into the box where Todd Dunivant is able to get free of his mark and score the goal.
Either Tyrone Marshall or Jhon Kennedy Hurtado were responsible for Dunivant, but what allowed the ball to get there was Vagenas essentially whiffing on his attempt to head the ball out. There's probably blame enough for all three players, but it would be understandable for Vagenas to feel most culpable.
By the time Donovan scores his team's fourth goal of the match, the Sounders had started to look like a beaten team. This play was perfectly indicative of that kind of mood.
Edson Buddle and Marshall are fighting for a ball along the sideline. The ball appears like it might be heading out of bounds and Marshall seems to give up on the ball. Buddle does not.
The Galaxy striker is able to control the ball, make a couple nifty dribbling moves and thread a pass through Marshall and Leo Gonzalez toward a streaking Donovan, who has gotten free of Hurtado. The pass hits Donovan in stride and he easily pokes it past Keller for the game's final goal.
Hopefully, the Sounders are able to learn from this match in general. More specifically, I would hope that there's something to be learned in how several of these goals developed. One of them was the result of a great offensive play, another was the result of a mistake. The other two, though, were examples of what can happen when players allow their concentration to slip even a little.
I hope the other thing people get out of this is the fact that as lopsided as the score was, the Sounders were not dominated physically. Three of these goals were preventable, and the Sounders had the better play in the first half. If this team needed a wakeup call, I imagine this game serves that purpose. There's ample evidence to suggest that this team is capable of far better play, and hardly worth giving up on.