Any game where you see three players come off due to injury is a bad one. My sincerest hope from this otherwise forgettable two hours is that Joao Plata, James Riley and A.J. DeLaGarza are all back and ready to go within days rather than weeks.
Here are three things to take from RSL's 1-1 home opening draw with LA:
1. March is not for beauty
Bruce Arena complained about the early-season schedule earlier this week – specifically the fact that his LA Galaxy had to open the season with back-to-back games vs. RSL.
He was right to complain. I get the league's desire to start the year off with rivalry games, showcasing "playoff intensity" in March. And maybe one game would have been appropriate, since the opener between these two teams was so much fun.
But two games for familiar foes in this short a span was too much. Playoff intensity was subsumed by early-season choppiness, which eventually gave way to chippiness, and what should have been a showcase game ended up being pretty ugly.
52' Pretty rusty outings from both teams today, so far. Not the nicest of soccer.— Chris Kamrani (@chriskamrani) March 22, 2014
It didn't get any nicer for the final 40 minutes.
Bruce was right to complain.
2. This diamond is a rhombus
Arena's much more tactically flexible than he gets credit for, and in this one he pulled the old diamond out of his bag of tricks.
Brief history lesson: The first dynasty in MLS history was D.C. United from 1996-99. They won three MLS Cups, two Supporters' Shields and a US Open Cup in that span, as well as the CONCACAF Champions' Cup and Copa Interamericana (which doesn't exist anymore, but was a hell of a lot of fun back in the day).
That was Arena's team, and they played a diamond midfield. He knows how to make the formation work.
So while I'm not surprised that he tried it with the Galaxy, I am surprised that it came with Robbie Keane on the field.
Look at this play:
And that's Keane doing what he does 95 percent of the time: Checking to the ball instead of flaring to provide width. He wants to be a playmaker, not a space creator.
RSL's forwards, on the other hand, almost always flare wide to give Javier Morales space to run the show. The pieces fit better for them.
I think we'll see the diamond from LA again, but it'll come when Keane's unavailable (and he always does miss a few games). It's a good club for LA to have in the bag, but it's not the best way to use their two best players in tandem.
3. Formation matters in transition
Defensive formations more than attacking formations. As lost/redundant as Keane was in the build-up, he was lethal the one time he truly got into the open field. Watch his brilliant individual effort for the goal HERE.
I haven't talked much about RSL so far in this one because they didn't really throw any new wrinkles at us, instead just doing what they've done so well since 2009 – trotting out that diamond of their own, rotating to put the likes of Ned Grabavoy or Luis Gil in position to make plays from the hole when Morales is neutralized, and generally looking like a team already at 90 percent functionality. That's the advantage of cohesion over change.
One of the disadvantages, though, is that they've now been scouted a million times. The book on RSL is still the same: Do everything in your power to force their fullbacks into turnovers, because they push up so high that you can open up an entire side of the field. And if you do that, they won't be able to run you down from behind because neither Chris Wingert nor Tony Beltran has make-up speed.
Anyway, a point for each from this one was probably fair. I just wish it had come in May or June instead of March.