To say offense was at a premium in Saturday night’s game between the Galaxy and the Vancouver Whitecaps would be an understatement. It was positively nonexistent.
For only the third time in the MLS this season, two opponents combined to have one shot or fewer on target. The other two results were scoreless ties, the first March 28 between FC Dallas and the Seattle Sounders and the second April 11 between Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake.
The shutout also marked the first time the Galaxy was held without a shot on goal in more than three years, and the only time it has ever happened at home.
The lack of firepower was not from lack of effort on either side, Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena said, but the result of a compact Vancouver defense and dominant possession for the Galaxy.
“We should have shot a few more times, especially in that second half, I thought,” Arena said. “But they did a great job. Got a lot of players behind the ball and made it tough in the penalty area.”
The Galaxy dominated possession, 65.6% to 34.4%, and had 585 total passes compared with 325 for Vancouver. However, L.A. converted that to just eight total attempts, five outside the box, and two others that were blocked before they made it to the net.
That being said, both teams had opportunities for on-target attempts, as the Galaxy sent 39 crosses into the box throughout the course of the game, and the Whitecaps ricocheted one blast off the post and had several breakaways on counterattacks that fizzled out.
“We lacked penetrating passes in the final third,” Galaxy forward Alan Gordon said. “We had a lot of possession in the middle of the field, but it just didn’t translate. We needed more runs.”
Kendall Watson and Pa-Modou Kah, at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds and 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, respectively, made life especially difficult for the Galaxy, shutting down the center of the field on set pieces and pushing Los Angeles to the wings.
“Give them credit,” forward Robbie Keane said. “They had a game plan to stop the balls coming through the middle, and they defended well.”
“They’re very, very tight, especially in the center of the field,” midfielder Stefan Ishizaki said. “They’re playing a really tight back four, and two really big guys sitting up and making it really hard to find our strikers.”
Brian Rowe got his fourth start of the season in goal for L.A. with the absence of starting keeper Jaime Penedo, who is with the Panamanian national team, and had almost nothing to do, as did Vancouver’s starter David Ousted.
Neither keeper had any saves, just the second time that has occurred this season in the MLS. Outside of punching out a few corners, Ousted’s job consisted mostly of watching the Galaxy shots sail well wide and playing the ball back up to the front.
On the season, the Whitecaps now average five shots on goal, and the Galaxy are putting up three per contest.