For the first time this season, Andreas Herzog didn't play for the Los Angeles Galaxy - and they managed just fine without their Austrian veteran in the midfield.
The two-time FIFA World Cup competitor missed out on the Galaxy's 2-0 win against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday at Home Depot Center after earning a one-match suspension for caution point accumulation.
"There's a lot he brings and at times it felt like we had no attacking midfielder in there today," said Galaxy rookie midfielder Ned Grabavoy. "But we came out with the thought process that we wouldn't give anything up without him."
The Galaxy saw through their thoughts, earning terrific games from their back four and Cobi Jones and Grabavoy on the flanks in the midfield. Grabavoy scored the first goal of the match with a curving free kick that went off the chest of Colorado goalkeeper Joe Cannon and into the goal - his first career MLS goal.
"He's been good all year and he was really good on that ball," said Galaxy forward Jovan Kirovski. "He impressed me quite a bit."
Although Guillermo Gonzalez struggled to find his place and was pulled in the second half, Jones used his speed and experience to challenge the Rapids' defense. He enjoyed several opportunities and nearly scored in the 67th minute with a one-time effort off a Grabavoy pass before Cannon made a save.
Early on, defenders Tyrone Marshall and Paul Broome passed over the midfield with long balls to provide excellent opportunities to Carlos Ruiz and Kirovski.
"There was a point in the first half where we were just foregoing the midfield," Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman said. "Ty had some good balls. We didn't really play through the midfield until later."
Players that don't normally start were more than happy to help the Galaxy maintain their lead in the Western Conference and win their third in a row despite missing players to suspension (Herzog), national team duty (Chris Albright) and injuries (Marcelo Saragosa, Peter Vagenas).
"We need to do that because guys are always going to be out," Grabavoy said. "Everybody has to step up."