Forced to reorganize due to an injury to Jermaine Jones early in their game on Saturday evening, LA Galaxy head coach Curt Onalfo’s staff set the Galaxy up at the start of the second half in a new look, after falling behind 2-0 to the Chicago Fire. Allowing Giovani dos Santos to play the No. 10 in place of Jones and Gyasi Zardes to take the helm at striker, LA were able to pull off an impressive two-goal comeback against the Fire and earn a deserved point.
Dos Santos is better suited for this role given his tendencies to want to check deeper into the midfield while playing striker. And moreover, Zardes’ high soccer IQ gives LA a different dynamic going forward when he is playing the No. 9. It’s not a coincidence that six of the Galaxy’s eight corners (two of which they scored on) all came in the second half amidst these changes. It would be a mistake for the Galaxy not to consider keeping these two players in these positions.
It should also be noted that Onalfo pulled Jelle Van Damme out of the game in the first half, replacing him with Dave Romney. The move helped solidify the defense, allowing his team to spring forward and get a point.
Subs get job done for 'Caps
Substitutes Alphonso Davies and Brek Shea were at the core of Vancouver’s win on Friday night as the Whitecaps edged out Colorado 1-0 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Playing a 4-1-4-1 for the third week in a row, Carl Robinson put Davies on the right and Shea on the left of the midfield for the final 20 minutes.
Given Colorado had more possession for much of the second half, Davies’ defensive work rate had a major impact down the right side. He stymied Mekeil Williams, Michael Azira and even Shkelzen Gashi when he was out on the flank. The teenager’s physicality also provided a different look in that part of the field for the Whitecaps after Colorado had been able to bully 5-foot-2 Cristian Techera for the first 70 minutes.
Additionally, Shea’s savvy and fresh legs helped Vancouver transition from defense offense more effectively. His ability usher the ball into the attacking half after his side had to defend a couple threatening passes, alleviated some of the pressure from Colorado.
Fittingly, it was Davies’ defensive commitment that led to the counter where Shea scored in transition for the match’s lone goal.
A New Home for Nicolai Naess?
Columbus Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter might have found the best way to use Nicolai Naess during Columbus’ 2-0 win against the New England Revolution. Naess, primarily a center back so far this season for Columbus, was a difference maker as a defensive midfielder. He played in the spot at times during the 2016 season.
In this position with Columbus on the ball, Naess would look to drop back between the two center defenders and allow the outside backs to get forward. Often looking to build their attack from possession out of the back, the Norwegian then had the freedom to initiate Crew SC’s offense by either playing precision diagonal passes up the field or picking out the right short pass to fellow teammates with sound decision making.
Naess still had ample opportunity to showcase his defensive ability as well. He was sharp filling in along the backline when a defender had gone forward and good at protecting the space in front of the back four at the right times.
San Jose’s Quick Restarts
In possession and with the ball in play, the Earthquakes moved the ball fluidly from side to side as they looked to probe the Timbers defense.
But even when the referee’s whistle would halt their possession, San Jose made a concerted effort to get the ball back in play promptly. They looked to continue to put pressure on Portland using the vast majority of their 21 free kicks to resume play quickly.
pic.twitter.com/DpY0V2eFhX — MLSclips (@MLSgamefilm) May 8, 2017
pic.twitter.com/1XyrbTXoEp — MLSclips (@MLSgamefilm) May 8, 2017
Seen in the examples above, the Earthquakes fast restarts played a large role in how they were able to control the pace of the game and ultimately dictate the terms through much of the match.
Vanney getting the most out of his personnel
In a huge MLS Cup rematch against the Seattle Sounders, Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney and his staff made the difficult decision to rest the likes of Eriq Zavaleta, Sebastian Giovinco, Victor Vazquez and Steven Beitashour.
It would have been easy for Toronto players to take the day off and just live to fight another day given the message it sends when a manager rests bigger names. However, TFC’s play did not drop much at all.
Vanney’s side was well organized defensively and difficult to break down. Having five different starters from Wednesday's win against Orlando City SC did not seem to cause much issue at all as they got a big win.
And while the Toronto coaching staff gets a lot of credit for preparing a starting XI that hasn’t played together to take on the defending champs, they deserve more credit for effectively balancing playing time amidst a stretch of four games in 13 days without sacrificing results – they are currently on a four-game winning streak.