CARSON, Calif. – The mood in the LA Galaxy's camp Monday was surprisingly buoyant after the previous day's defeat at Sporting Kansas City dropped them from second to fifth in the West, costing them a bye into the conference semifinals and dealing a must-win assignment Wednesday night in Seattle (10 pm ET; UniMás in US, TSN, RDS in Canada).
Not so much for Steven Gerrard, who's a little new to this playoffs thing and couldn't stop beating himself up over his errors in Sunday's 2-1 loss.
Gerrard fired weakly at Tim Melia when Giovani Dos Santos found him for an open shot from the top of the box late in the first half, then failed to play through Robbie Keane when the opportunity arose after the break, two debits in an otherwise terrific performance.
The English midfielder was playing in a more advanced position, with Juninho clearly the holding midfielder, and the Galaxy thought their attack worked quite well, subpar final passes and finishes aside.
On Monday, Gerrard was still consumed with what he'd failed to do.
“No one's feeling more disappointed or down or flat than me at the moment,” he said during a media availability with several players at StubHub Center. “I've played [the 44th-minute miss] 50 times in my sleep. That's the kind of player and person I am – I overanalyze, and it's got me to where I am today, so nothing's going to change on that. I drive myself batty all day.
“This game on Wednesday can't come quick enough, because it's the only time you can heal and erase moments when you should score or when you should slip a teammate in.”
Gerrard brought great energy to a more attacking role than he's generally played for LA, part of a tactical switch that had wide midfielders Gyasi Zardes and Sebastian Lletget pinching in to prevent Juninho from getting isolated in the center. He might have scored two goals, had Dos Santos' feed from the left in the 20th minute had come more quickly before Graham Zusi retreated deep enough to cut off the pass, and if he'd taken the kind of shot he knows he should have taken 24 minutes later.
“It was the manager's decision. He played me a bit more closely to Robbie and Gio, and I think tactically it worked very well,” Gerrard said. “I think on another night, with that little bit of care and attention to the last pass or the last finish, I think we could have scored maybe four or five goals. There was a lot of positives that have to try and take into Seattle, but [we're] trying to find that last little piece of the jigsaw.”
Head coach Bruce Arena said he was pleased with Gerrard's impact, but dismissed the notion that the former England captain was doing anything different.
“The way we want to play is when we have the ball, be dangerous,” Arena said. “We're not diagramming things on a napkin. We're telling them to play, and I think the way they played yesterday, we were real close to being real good.
“[Gerrard] was part of a lot of good attacking plays. Unfortunately, we fell short on all of them. I think we get that a little bit cleaner with he and others, I think we have a chance to score some goals in Seattle.”
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This is Gerrard's first time in a playoff situation, and it all feels rather unfamiliar. But the Galaxy have slumped into postseasons before and won titles, and so many of their players understand that the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs are a new season – that what's come before doesn't mean anything.
“That's the impression that I'm getting in the locker room,” he said. “A lot of players seem to be a lot more upbeat than myself, so maybe I need my teammates' help and guidance.
“I've been here three months and it feels like it's gone in a flash, and [the Seattle game is] 48 hours away now, so maybe I need some guidance from my teammates and people within the squad and the staff to show me the way.
“But I'll be ready on Wednesday. As I say, it's been a tough overnight sleep, from being disappointed from myself not finishing the chance in the first half and not putting Robbie through in the second half. But we've got no time to feel sorry for ourselves. It's upon us in 48 hours, and it's a cup final.”