CARSON, Calif. — After a demanding match in Toronto on Wednesday, LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena sent out nearly an identical lineup against Real Salt Lake on Saturday at The Home Depot Center.
“This game is on me. It’s my fault,” Arena said after the Galaxy gave up a one-goal lead in a 3-1 loss. “I should have used fresher bodies. We hit the wall and made mistakes that are attributed to fatigue.”
Arena said he should have known better than to play nine of the 11 players who played 90 minutes on Wednesday. Tommy Meyer and Marcelo Sarvas started on Saturday but aside from those two players filling in for Andrew Boyens and Juninho, respectively, the team was the same Arena sent out to face Toronto FC in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series.
“The travel, the two games this week added up to being a pretty tired team over the last 20 minutes, and it cost us the game,” Arena said. “I take full responsibility for that.”
That the match is just the second competitive match of 2012 may have seemed to make fatigue more of an issue. But the truth is, it was always going to be an issue.
“We knew it was going to be hard, this start to the season — playing a hard game on turf and then traveling, naturally guys are going to be a bit tired,” midfielder Landon Donovan said. “That’s not an excuse. We had enough opportunities to win the game. We’re up a goal with (19) minutes to go, we should do a better job of finishing it.”
Indeed, the Galaxy took the lead on Saturday. Edson Buddle scored on his Galaxy return, heading home a cross from David Beckham in the 71st minute. But everything came crashing down shortly thereafter. Sean Franklin tried to clear a cross out of danger, but instead the ball deflected off his shin and into the net.
“I just thought Espindola was coming in so I tried to beat him to the ball and I just happened to catch the wrong side of the ball,” he said.
RSL smelled blood in the water and went in for the kill, as the Galaxy started to wilt. Javier Morales scored the eventual matchwinner in the 80th minute, and Fabian Espindola buried a counterattack from close range five minutes later.
“It’s not down to the coach once the players are on the field,” Galaxy midfielder David Beckham said. “He picks a team he think is a strong team, that’s ready to play and then it’s down to the players. It’s down to us collectively. Fatigue did kick in a certain amount and that’s when mistakes become apparent. The chances we have, we’re not sharp enough to put away.”
The loss was the Galaxy’s first of 2012 and first at home since the end of the 2010 season. A year ago, the Galaxy pieced together an impressive unbeaten run — 17 regular-season home games, three playoff matches including MLS Cup 2011 as well as three CONCACAF Champions League matches.
All that vanished on Saturday as bounces began to go the opponents’ way for a change.
“To go on a run like the run we were on, unbeaten at home, you have to have some breaks go your way,” Donovan said. “(Saturday) it seemed like everything went against us.”
Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by email at email@example.com.
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