Here we are, folks. A new season and new defensive miscues to look at. Let's see what went wrong last weekend. Communicate and Clear
My top two soccer pet peeves are teammates not communicating and a player not using their weaker foot when it's clearly the better option. Well, guess what we saw with this goal...
This sequence starts off with the Fire dropping back to defend their own half allowing Omar Gonzalez to distribute from deep. Shaun Maloney closes down Gonzalez with Harrison Shipp in a good position to provide cover and shut down the penetrating pass and force the play wide. Gonzalez finds Stefan Ishizaki who had success 1v1 on the right side all night long against Joevin Jones. Usually a long ball from the back isn't much of a note, but this will become an issue again later.
Ishizaki collects the pass in a dangerous position and I'm not at all happy with the time and space he has on the ball. To be fair, this advantage is more a product of good positioning on Ishizaki's part than poor positioning by the defense. Ishizaki places himself as far wide as possible to use the width of the field and give himself time to collect, touch, and cross, while riding the offside line to cross behind the defense.
By the time Jones applies pressure, Ishizaki is ready to send the cross between the defense and Sean Johnson and the forwards make their dangerous runs before the defense tightens up their line. A perfect low cross puts Jose Villareal 1v1 against Johnson.
The cross comes in and Villareal thankfully doesn't anticipate the run and the defense recovers. The only problem is Lovel Palmer and Jeff Larentowicz attempt to clear the same ball. In the moment, it is difficult to decide who should attack the ball as Larentowicz has the first opportunity, but Palmer has the momentum and better body positioning to clear it out of danger. There must be communication between them and it must be assertive and immediate to prevent any mishaps.
This is a terrible Monday night league attempt at a clearance trying to swing the right foot around the body to deflect the ball somewhere else instead of using the left to knock it back from where it came and away from goal. There was no aim to the attempted clearance; just get a foot on it and hope it finds its way away from goal. Meanwhile, both Villareal and Robbie Keane anticipate any error by making runs to recover a missed clearance. You can't win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket and Villareal ended up winning a chance at a goal and finished to the far post.
Defend the Rotation
This next goal is particularly displeasing as multiple mistakes compound to a fantastic volley from Keane. Let's take a look at the buildup again as this starts in almost the same way as the first goal.
This sequence starts with another Omar Gonzalez long ball only this time the Fire have dropped deeper into their own half. At this point the Galaxy were much more likely to score their second goal than the Fire to equalize leading to a possible counter-attacking strategy from Yallop to absorb the overwhelming pressure from the Galaxy attack. Unfortunately, Gonzalez has an immense amount of time and space to collect the ball and see the field while Los Angeles start their off the ball rotations.
This is where the defense falls apart and I start losing my cool. Gonzalez takes an absurdly long touch to attack the open space in front of him knowing he's not under any pressure at all. Alan Gordon checks to the open space and pulls Eric Gehrig with him. Baggio Husidic makes the run from midfield when he catches Matt Polster ball watching. This is how to rotate to open the space for a deep midfield run. Meanwhile, Keane waits in the distance looking for Gonzalez to hit a long ball behind the defense and Ishizaki stays wide to repeat his role from the first goal.
By the time the Fire defense realize what happened, Husidic is in position to win a header for either Gordon who follows up on the play completely unmarked, or Keane who also finds himself unmarked as Larentowicz over commits to his covering duties.
The Fire fell victim to a Galaxy team that knows how to move to open up space for teammates willing to go forward. With Bruce Arena developing a sophisticated attack, the only question was if or when Los Angeles could finish the multiple chances they were going to create on the night.