If there has been one near absolute for the Los Angeles Galaxy this season, it's that they will play brilliantly for 45 minutes, and look like a completely different team for the other 45. Friday night at The Home Depot Center was no exception, and after a dismal opening half, the Galaxy just didn't quite have enough to overcome a two-goal halftime deficit to the New England Revolution.
LA didn't even register their first shot on goal until nearly the 60-minute mark, and were on the back foot the entire first half, outshot 8-2 in the opening stanza. Steve Cronin was forced into four saves, and Mauricio Castro hit the post on an shot toward an empty net, otherwise the game would have been over by halftime.
After the game, head coach Ruud Gullit made it clear that poor play from his midfield is what cost his side in the eventual 2-1 loss.
"If you see the first half, our biggest problem was midfield. People panic under a little bit of pressure and gave the ball away to the opposition, you get out of your rhythm," said Gullit. "There's no need for that."
The frustrating thing for Gullit is that he spends a great deal of time in training working on staying calm and making good decisions with the ball. Against the Revolution, that didn't bear itself out.
"We train on not to panic even if you are under pressure," said Gullit. "In this game, it was not good in the midfield."
In addition to playing tentative in the midfield, the decision-making of the Galaxy wasn't terribly good in the first 45 minutes. On several occasions, LA's attacks were thwarted by balls being played right to the feet of a Revolution defender.
"Sometimes you look to play passes which aren't on or you play passes to the person you think is free and they're not," said David Beckham. "That's about mentality. It's to make sure decision-making and to keep concentration. You have to concentrate for 90 minutes because everyone knows in seconds you can lose a goal by not concentrating."
Part of the reason the Galaxy struggled early was the fact that Landon Donovan was unable to start the match due to flu-like symptoms that he had been suffering through all week long. From his spot on the bench, Donovan saw much of the same things as his coach.
"There was a lack in confidence (in the first half). We could never get out and so once they had us kind of pinned in, we could never find our way out and relieve the pressure," said Donovan. "You resort to hoping you can catch someone on some sort of counter as opposed to getting them in their end and getting chance after chance like we did more of in the second half."
As much as the Revolution kept the Galaxy pinned into their own half, it was actually from two corner kicks that Los Angeles was punished on the scoreboard. On both goals, defenders were beaten to headers. The first goal, Shalrie Joseph forced Cronin into making a tough save, allowing Adam Cristman to bang home the rebound. On the second goal, Cristman beat Abel Xavier on a run at the back post and pounded home a header.
"It's hard when you lose on two set pieces when you have so many chances to win this game," said Gullit.
As bad as things were in the first half, to the Galaxy's credit, they did fight back and play well in the second half, dominating the Revolution. If not for an unlucky shot against the crossbar, LA would have walked away with a share of the points.
"I think that if you overall look at (the game) we were unfortunate to lose this game," said Gullit. "We had great chances. Also you must remember the chances they had. It feels unfortunate to lose this game."
The Galaxy still remain in first place in the West, despite a three-game winless streak. But at the midway point of the season, the disturbing trend of only performing for 45 minutes a game is catching up to them. Five points separates Los Angeles from second to last place in the table, and there is little room left for performances like Friday's.
Greg Daurio is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.