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Apr 2012
17:52 Comments (13)
Rafa Benitez analyses another MLS match

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Rafa Benítez

(Statistics supplied courtesy of Opta)

Week 6 of the MLS season and LA Galaxy stop their recent run of poor results

This weekend was week 6 of the MLS season and LA Galaxy were welcoming Portland Timbers to the Home Depot Center with both teams ruefully looking at the Western Conference table as they occupied the bottom two places. Both teams needed the win to kick-start the season but once again Portland were unable to hold on to a lead as had happened too often recently. Galaxy left it late to get the winning goals but will be happy that the poor run has been halted. We were able to watch the game and analyse the key points which we can share with you to debate.

LA Galaxy 3 - 1 Portland Timbers

Both teams started the game with 1-4-4-2 systems defending and attacking although with some minor differences in the midfield movements as Portland’s wide players were tending to come inside more when they were attacking whilst LA Galaxy with Magee and Donovan in the wide areas created more width. Beckham and Juninho were alternating their central midfield positions and Beckham was trying to make himself available to receive slightly higher than Juninho.

Although the tempo with the ball for both sides was not quick, David Beckham was showing his trademark switch of play passing to the players offering width and as usual the delivery was good.

There were a couple of chances in the first 10 minutes coming from crosses and the game was open with neither team pressing with intensity as a unit which was allowing build up play to develop. A typical Beckham delivery from the right almost created a chance for Barratt after 20 minutes.

The first goal of the game was scored by the away team in the 23rd minute after good combination play and striker movement by Boyd who made a curved run behind the centre backs of Galaxy and took the ball on to finish confidently as he had done many times in Scotland and make it 0-1 with his third MLS goal. There was a suggestion of offside though against Boyd but the goal stood. A couple of minutes later Boyd had another chance from a counter attack. A minute later Boyd was ruled offside and a goal disallowed although his control and volley finish was worthy of a goal. The LA centre backs were losing position and not adjusting their cover at times, defensive distances were too open with midfield players not dropping off quickly and this was allowing movement in the spaces. Boyd was constantly trying to push the home team’s defensive line as deep as possible and was causing some problems although Portland were caught offside 5 times in the match.

On 26 minutes Beckham put in a good delivery from a wide free kick on the left which was dangerous and a couple of minutes later was able to play a ball inside the Portland right back for a run in to the box by Keane which again created a dangerous opportunity. The Galaxy were able to force a few corners in succession with more possession and on 35 minutes their two wide players switched positions with Magee moving to the right and Donovan playing on the left. Shortly after Keane had a left foot shot saved as he drove in to the box. LA Galaxy were controlling the possession in this part of the match whilst Portland were dropping off and looking to counter attack.

Keane was now operating largely in the left channel and his ability was creating some chances as he dribbled in to the box and put in crosses. A minute before half time, Robbie Keane made another movement from the centre in to the left channel behind the right back, Purdy, and drew the centre back, Brunner, out of position to one against one wide. Keane turned the defender and dribbled to the by-line to pull the ball back for Donovan to finish with some composure.

In the second half, both teams started with the formations they had in the first half. LA Galaxy started with the defensive line higher and as a unit they were pushing forward much more, getting more players in to the opposition half. They were able to get their full backs higher up the pitch and on 48 minutes the Galaxy right back, Franklin got forward to put in a low cross. Beckham was also higher and playing more on the right of central midfield. Portland had swapped their wide players and made their first substitution after 57 minutes, with Songo’o replacing Alhassan on the left.

On 60 minutes Franklin got forward yet again and in to the box for a good strike but it was too high. Beckham continued to try to influence the game by looking to receive and play forward and Galaxy were able to create more chances with crosses in to the box. In the match, the home side forced 9 corners which gives some indication of the pressure they were able to exert in the opposition half. Thanks to Opta statistics we also know that LA Galaxy had 11 shots on target (17 in total) compared to only 3 for Portland (8 in total), although possession statistics were not too different, the home team having 52%.

On 73 minutes, the away side counter attacked well after one of Galaxy’s corners which was cleared off the line and they managed to get up to the other end and hit the bar with a shot from Alexander.

The second goal for Galaxy came after 83 minutes when they kept the pressure on the Timbers after a corner. Juninho pressed the ball high and regained to shoot from outside the box and score inside the post making the score 2-1.

Portland now had to chase the game and nearly equalised from a corner after some poor set piece defending by the Los Angeles team.

The game was over, however, on 91 minutes when Beckham was given time and space to pick his spot in the top corner with a right foot shot from outside the box. A player with his quality in striking the ball cannot be allowed that much time to shoot. Portland will have to have a close analysis of how they have been leading in matches only to go on to lose and LA Galaxy will hope that this win has re-started the season for them.

13 Comments Send us your opinions
16/04/12 at 16:08:40 #1
Hi Rafa,

Football seems to be blossoming in the USA, it has taken time but is penetrating into the psyche. Obviously marketing and high-profile personalities have a huge part in this, however, how do you rate the evolution of tactics and sports science in the states as compared to the more mature leagues across the world. How long before they reach the level of La Liga or The Premier League?

Would you go to the MLS and build a title winning team there as a small project?


Hello, I agree with you that football is penetrating in USA. We have to analyse every option to work, it has to be a good enviroment. Thanks.

16/04/12 at 17:01:38 #2
Adam jones
Every league has its own style of play what do you think the MLS style is like? 


Hi, they have to increase the tempo of the game. Good skills, but they need more pace.
16/04/12 at 18:05:04 #3
Rafa's Red Men
Rafa looks like old bacon face taggart, still drowning his sorrows, after you completely dismantled his best ever team tactically in "09" at old trash yard, nice to see he still completely obsessed with you after all these years,you always did have a way of getting under his skin ;)

Good Analyses by the way, thanks for the knowledge, gained.
16/04/12 at 18:19:23 #4
Very interesting reading, Rafa. Good to see you're not one of these snobs when it comes to MLS - there's a lot of good football out there.

I wrote a bit on the game too, from a Timbers perspective - http://wp.me/p1YobC-Rj - and I share your feelings on LA's 3rd goal. Great finish, but he should never have been allowed the shot in the first place!

Anyway, I was wondering - the Timbers seem to rely a lot of getting the ball wide and getting crosses into the box. I'm unconvinced this is an effective strategy for scoring goals. Most goals come from play that is built up through the central third of the field, rather than the flanks, at least as far as I can see. What are your feelings on the use of wing play as a means of attack?


Hello Kevin, when they are waiting for you in the centre you have to go for the wide areas, if they defend well there, they have to be weak in the centre. Thanks.
16/04/12 at 19:43:38 #5
Thanks for the analysis Rafa, I've also noticed that the MLS lacks general intensity though it is improving.

Happy Birthday by the way!
16/04/12 at 22:08:08 #6
brian hopkins
I think the whole world was laughing at the biggest clown last may at wembley.

RAFA a real scholar and true Gentleman of the game
17/04/12 at 03:43:06 #7
Happy Birthday Rafa! RAWK made a thread of best wishes for you.. http://www.redandwhitekop.com/forum/index.php?topic=292367.0
17/04/12 at 05:16:26 #8

Hola Rafa!

Que tal? Espero que usted esta bien!

I just wanted to thank you for replying to my previous message (the one about the letter I sent you, regarding Robbie Fowler). I know you're busy - muy, muy ocupado! - so it's much appreciated!

I really miss your not being Liverpool manager any more - it's just not the same.

I love your dignity and honourable character, and you deserve only the very best club (Liverpool, of course!), whoever that may be. I hope you find the job you desire as soon as possible!

Good luck - and best wishes to Montse and her charity work!
17/04/12 at 05:19:22 #9

Lo siento - he olvidado decir 'Feliz cumpleanos' tambien!

17/04/12 at 20:29:36 #10
Hi Rafa,

You mention that the pace of MLS needs to be sped up in order to be considered a great league. Could you please embellish on this? Do you mean the actual pace of players feet or there the pace of their decision making skills? I feel it's the latter. If so, how can this be remedied?

Thanks and cheers for giving MLS attention!
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