CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy on Thursday night got two chances from the penalty spot, enough to overcome the Columbus Crew. And it was a good thing, because they couldn't put the ball into the net any other way.
It's been a recurring theme since the end of April: The Galaxy impress with their buildup but struggle to turn it into anything concrete, failing with the final pass or the shot, or failing to take the shot that needs to be taken.
It happened again against the Crew. LA took 23 shots, created more than a dozen opportunities but put only six shots on goal – including Robbie Keane's late penalty kicks – and didn't test Columbus goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum nearly as often as they should have in a 2-1 victory.
“We can certainly be accused of not finishing our chances and putting ourselves in poor position, which certainly happened ...,” said head coach Bruce Arena, whose team has a date with FC Dallas (Sunday, 10:30 pm ET; MLS Live), who have conceded multiple goals eight times this season and in three of their last five games. “There's an awful lot of work to be done. Finishing our chances is one of them.”
The Galaxy have been shut out in four of their last 11 games and held to just one goal three times while getting off at least 13 shots in all but two encounters. They scored twice last weekend in San Jose but their inability to finish another half-dozen chances cost them at the end. They scored four in wins over Philadelphia and Seattle, but two of Keane's goals against the Sounders came from the spot.
“The most important thing is getting into them spots [to finish],” said Keane, who has been paired with young forwards most of the season. “If you're not getting any chances, I'd be certainly worried, but the fact is that we are getting them, so it's only a matter of time before we start scoring a lot of goals.”
Gyasi Zardes, who has started seven successive league games, has been inconsistent up top. He's shown a knack for getting into good spots, has combined well to create chances, but he puts too many shots off target and has scored only once during his starts, a header in the 1-0 SuperClasico win two weeks ago over Chivas USA.
“That's what separates the men from the boys, generally, and the players that finish off those chances make a pretty good living around the world,” Arena said. “Goalscorers, you have to have a lot of respect for. Gyasi, he's still young in the trade, he's probably been healthy for about three months or so this year, and hopefully he's going to get better in the penalty area. That's the goal.
“The positive part: Each and every game he's getting a bunch of good chances, so hopefully he'll start putting some of those away.”
Zardes, 21, says “it really gets to me” when he misses in front of the net and that he needs to “keep working on finishing and keeping the ball on frame as opposed to shooting it off target.”
Jose Villarreal, 19, a crafty presence up front who has scored just twice in 21 MLS appearances, agrees with Keane.
“We have enough players who can out the ball away,” he said. “It's just a matter of when it happens. I think once everyone starts getting goals, then it will get everyone going.”