Two trends continued last Friday when New England faced Los Angeles. The Revolution continued dominating on the road while the Galaxy kept on struggling against quality Eastern Conference opponents.
The Revs, who boast a 6-2-1 record on the road (best in MLS), continued its habit of finding different players to step up with Adam Cristman playing the role of this week’s hero with his two-goal effort. With Taylor Twellman still working his way back, the Revs have found a variety of players to carry the scoring load. That balance has helped the Revs post the league’s best record, both on the road and overall.
The Galaxy doesn’t have quite that much balance. With a dangerous offense and inconsistent defense, LA can go off for big wins, but also hit slumps when they face top competition who are capable of breaking down their vulnerable defense.
SBI correspondents Andrew Karl and Nathan Henderson-James watched Friday’s action and filed their reports on the match with us:
Revs deliver a perfect holiday treat
By ANDREW KARL
I’ve said it before, nothing beats a long weekend except one capped off with a Revs game. For those of you out there who spend the majority of your weekdays behind a desk, sneaking peaks at SBI and other member sites of the ‘Designated Players’ network as often as possible, you know how short a two day weekend can feel. But when Friday is a holiday and, in my case, you get out of work at noon on Thursday, it feels like the world is your oyster. You have three and a half to do what you like, whether it be catching up on sleep or gorging yourself on grilled meat and margaritas.
I enjoyed all of the above, with a couple intense games of backyard soccer tennis thrown in. As the sun set on Friday I was grateful for the scheduling of the night’s game, as the 10:30 kickoff gave me plenty of time to watch the 4th of July fireworks. I was also grateful that the Revolution and Galaxy were playing in California; while I usually prefer home games, I was not in a fit state to drive down to Foxboro at any time after three o’clock that afternoon.
Going into this match I was worried about how the New England defense would hold up against LA’s often prolific attack while at the same time confident that in-form players like Steve Ralston, Mauricio Castro, and Kheli Dube would have no problem finding the back of the net at the Home Depot Center. Strangely enough, the Revolution defense stood strong and Adam Cristman shined in the final third.
Only 2 minutes or so into the game, a piece of hard-nosed defending set the tone for what was to come: Chris Albright put a strong shoulder into Alan Gordon while the two chased down a ball destined for the end-line, sending the lanky striker to the ground. Albright’s defending was aggressive, assertive, and physical all night. I may have called for him to get upfield and attack a week or two ago, but if he can remain solid like he did against LA, our defense may have turned a page.
In the offensive end, Adam Cristman kept up the hard work we’ve seen from him in the last few weeks. The difference this week was his decision making…and the fact that he produced a brace. When Shalrie Joseph completely out-muscled and out-jumped Alan Gordon to head on goal, Cristman was there following up, tapping in after a Steve Cronin save. Where was Abel Xavier, the LA defender assigned to mark Cristman on this play? The same place he was on the second goal, lost. Cristman made a surging far post run, soared above Xavier, and powered a header in to score his second.
Xavier was miserable nearly all game long. Not only was Cristman able to lose his marker and score twice, but he also found the ability to turn the Portuguese defender and run in behind him. This is something that Cristman had proved inept at earlier in the year, when receiving the ball with his back to goal the second year man barely attempted to turn and break in behind a defender. On Friday night though, Adam used his size, strength, and speed to torment Xavier for 90 minutes.
I was so impressed with Cristman’s first half that I posed the possibility that Dube should come off to make room for Taylor Twellman instead of the goalscorer, as has been the case recently. Steve Nicol and I were of like mind on this night as Cristman appeared to be rewarded with a full match – until he was replaced by Amaechi Igwe.
I’ve been tough on Cristman this year, quite tough. But his performances in the last two or three weeks, punctuated by last night’s gem are not only proving me wrong, they’re turning me into a fan. It all starts with hard work, something that’s always appreciated in New England and doesn’t go unnoticed. Throw in the results and production he’s providing nowadays and Adam Cristman is making a case for his inclusion in the starting eleven down the stretch.
I posed the question last week, who should be the number two striker to pair with Twellman once his fitness returns? I dismissed Cristman and left it between Kenny Mansally and Kheli Dube. But now, I find myself doubting that dismissal very much.
Galaxy can’t overcome absence of Donovan
By NATHAN HENDERSON-JAMES
There are so many things I could comment on regarding the July 4th match-up between the Los Angeles Galaxy and the New England Revolution. I could talk about how playing Alan Gordon makes it seem like the opposition has 12 men. I could talk about Ruud Gullit playing what looked like a 2-5-3 for the last eight minutes after the Revs switched to a 4-5-1. I could talk about how much the Western Conference must suck for the Galaxy to still be leading the division.
Or I could talk about the fact that the Galaxy is a completely different team with Landon Donovan on the field. (I toyed for a minute with coming up with a scheme that rates players on the "Donovan Scale". For example, Landon Donovan is worth 10 Alan Gordons.) I could talk about how I gave up trying to track the number of Galaxy give-aways in midfield the minute I realized that both Alvaro Pires AND Joey Franchino would be starting. I could talk about how if David Beckham never gets touches then the team sputters like Elmer Fudd confronting Bugs Bunny. I could even talk about how the urinals at the Home Depot Center have been replaced with waterless models saving 40,000 gallons of water a year per urinal here in drought-stricken SoCal.
Instead this 2008 makes me thing of an exercise my 9th grad social studies teacher put his classes through back in the day. It was a bartering exercise ostensibly designed, I suspect, to teach us something about capitalism while actually allowing him to get out of planning a lesson. The exercise was simple: bring something to class to trade. Make as many trades as you want in a fifteen minute period. Debrief. Free read/pass notes/sleep for the rest of the period.
I brought a new CD of a popular mid-80’s musical artist who, in order to protect the innocent, will go unnamed. This was before the sweet sweet interwebs so I had to (1) buy the CD and (2) buy it in an ancient relic called a "record store". (I’m not even going to try to explain why they were called r
ecord stores.) Hence its value was enhanced by its relative scarcity.
I made several trades, each of which seemed satisfying on its face, but over time seriously degraded my original investment. At the end of the 15 minutes I was the glum, somewhat stunned owner of a cheap, plastic comb designed for hair significantly kinkier than my straight, limp locks.
This episode from my past has been coming to mind with great frequency as I contemplate the Galaxy’s problems on the field, especially their mostly mediocre midfield. The sad fact is that in three short seasons the G’s have gone from highly-coveted CD to sad plastic comb through a series of trades mostly characterized by the fact that they just didn’t need to be made. Lots of fans will point to the acquisition of Becks as the catalyst for this, but I think it goes back at least to the incomprehensible shedding of Kevin Hartman and the ridiculous trade of two young starters for Joe Cannon.
The results of all this couldn’t have been more perfectly juxtaposed on Friday. On the one hand a steady team, carefully built through smart drafting, careful schooling, and intelligent, inexpensive foreign acquisitions. On the other, a glitzy team built through trades and the acquisition of expensive foreign and domestic talent that looks anything but steady. The former team took three points on the road and leads the league with nine victories. The latter team dropped points at home and is mired in the middle of the MLS pack. There’s a lesson in all this if the Galaxy brain trust is willing to pay attention.