CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy's new midfield diamond might be here to stay.
The formation was brutally effective again in Sunday's 3-0 SuperClasico romp over Chivas USA, enabling LA to clamp down in midfield and prevent their archrival from developing coherency in their attack while creating plenty of good scoring opportunities.
Aside from goal chances, it was pretty much the same when Bruce Arena unveiled the new alignment – a departure from the flat 4-4-2 the Galaxy has employed during the coach's tenure – 15 days earlier in a 1-1 draw at Real Salt Lake.
It's about getting more players into the middle who are handy with the ball, echoing the system Club Tijuana used so well to beat LA in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.
“We have more possession. Look at the players that we have [in the diamond], it's certainly not wide players and [it is] players that technically are very, very good,” captain Robbie Keane said. “We keep the ball and we make the opposition run more than we do. Ultimately, they're going to get tired, and I think that was the case [against Chivas] because we had extra bodies in the middle of park, myself and Landon [Donovan] dropping off at times and making it even more extra bodies in there.
“I think they found that difficult to deal with.”
On Sunday, they positioned Stefan Ishizaki atop the diamond, with Juninho underneath and Marcelo Sarvas and Baggio Husidic pinching in from the wings. Donovan, who partnered Keane up front against Chivas, was the point man at RSL, with Ishizaki on the right side instead of Sarvas. The outside backs provide width.
“We're putting our best passing team on the field,” Donovan said. “We have a lot of quality on the field, so we move well, we pass well and guys are combining. I think it's really difficult to defend against.
“When Robbie and I come underneath, the other guys are recognizing it well and making runs forward. Marcelo got behind [Chivas' backline], Baggio got behind them, Stefan got behind them. Juni got forward and made plays. When you have defenders having to deal with all those things, it makes it really difficult.”
Arena, no fan of formation analysis, said the system merely “accommodates the players that we have out there at little bit better.” It works because of “the collection of players” being used, he said.
“They're all good soccer players,” he said. “There's enough bits in them where they can win tackles. Marcelo and Juni and Baggio get around the ball pretty well. They can pass the ball. Those are good characteristics for midfield players.”
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It's as if there are six central midfielders, with one surging forward now and another next time.
“It's hard to follow for the opponent,” Sarvas said.
Noted left back Todd Dunivant: “We have a lot of interchange in there. ... It's different looks from all the different players, and it keeps [opponents] guessing.”
The system has been so effective defensively, Sarvas said, because it allows the Galaxy to eliminate space.
“When we lose the ball,” he said, “there's always players close to the ball, and the chance to recover the ball is faster, it's bigger.”