LA Galaxy 1, Colorado 1: Three things as West contenders finish deadlocked
CARSON, Calif. -- The LA Galaxy hit a post and forced two huge saves from Tim Howard but snared a point in its MLS Western Conference showdown Saturday night with visiting Colorado, rallying for a 1-1 draw at StubHub Center.
Center back Daniel Steres nodded a Steven Gerrard corner kick to the lower-right corner in the 62nd minute as the Galaxy (9-3-11) extended its MLS unbeaten streak to nine games and climb to third in the West, a point ahead of Real Salt Lake, which plays Sunday at Seattle.
Colorado (11-3-9), which went ahead on Shkelzen Gashi's blast to the upper-left corner in the 51st minute, remained three points behind Supporters' Shield leader FC Dallas, which was held to a 2-2 draw at home by Sporting Kansas City.
The Galaxy lost goalkeeper Brian Rowe after a collision with teammate Nigel de Jong and Colorado's Kevin Doyle in the 80th minute, and he required several staples to close a wound on his head. Dan Kennedy, seeing his first action since May, wasn't tested in about 14 minutes of play, with referee Juan Guzman adding eight minutes of stoppage.
Three talking points from Saturday night:
Robbie Keane was missing after suffering an orbital fracture last week against the New York Red Bulls -- he's going through the concussion protocol, although he apparently doesn't have a concussion -- so Bruce Arena had to move a few things around up top and in midfield. It all worked, for the most part, although LA missed out on three points because it couldn't finish the chances it generated.
Rather than the simple move -- Baggio Husidic next to de Jong for suspended Jeff Larentowicz -- Arena pulled Steven Gerrard back to the holding line, moved Giovani Dos Santos from the right flank into the No. 10 spot, used Emmanuel Boateng and Sebastian Lletget on the wings, and inserted Gyasi Zardes, coming back from a chest-muscle injury (and wrapped tight so as not to aggravate it), at the top of the 4-2-3-1 formation.
Although the Galaxy tallied just once from at least seven really good opportunities, the team had to be happy with what it otherwise managed. Dos Santos, forced to take on more responsibility, gave his best performance in weeks, and Gerrard was nearly as impactful in attack as he normally is higher up. LA's move out of a 4-4-2 was largely about getting Gerrard into a spot where he could enable the attack with fewer defensive duties, but with de Jong keeping things tight in front of the backline, he could surge forward without worry.
Most impressive was Boateng, who seems to grow with every performance and is providing LA a dimension they've not had since ... Cobi Jones? His 61st-minute run through midfield, to the top of the box, with a nifty little move to maneuver Bobby Burling out of the way for the shot that Tim Howard parried, was as thrilling as any moment for the Galaxy this season.
Between the boxes
The Galaxy ought to be scoring three goals a game with the attacking talent it possesses, but there's been something of a disconnect going forward all season. Let's rephrase that: There's been something of a disconnect once they get to the opponents' box. Keane's absences haven't helped -- neither have Zardes' -- and chemistry still needs some work. It seems somebody always is missing, which plays havoc with that.
But when LA is moving the ball, it's a sight to see. There is no better team than the Galaxy between the boxes, and if that counted for anything, it'd be running away with the Shield. We saw some gorgeous stuff, especially in the first half, that leads to wondrous possibilities, but those possibilities too often disappear once LA gets to the 18.
They ought to have scored at least three goals against the Rapids, but give Colorado's league-best defense credit, too. The Rapids might have been twisted out of shape by LA's ball movement in midfield, but they provided little space around and inside their box, and they were able to rely on Howard when trouble arose.
Gashi the answer?
Jermaine Jones missed his sixth game with a knee injury, and with Dillon Powers again stationed next to captain Sam Cronin in a holding spot, Swiss-born Albanian attacker Shkelzen Gashi got the call again in the Rapids' attacking-midfield role. He saw his first action there last week, with holding midfielder Micheal Azira suspended, and fared well in a 2-0 win over Vancouver. This week, not so much.
Colorado struggled to create much of anything, and Gashi often looked lost away from the flank, where he's resided all season. The attack, as it were, slowed to a crawl when he had the ball. Dominique Badji, on the left, didn't offer much going forward, either, and was subbed out for Sebastien Le Toux at halftime. Only Marlon Hairston, the Rapids' difference-maker the past month, was effective, to a point, going forward.
Gashi scored early in the second half in a situation that better fits his skills. Two passes from the left, the second from Hairston to just above LA's box, and Gashi -- given acres of open space by the Galaxy defense -- first-timed it into the upper-left corner.
We know he can do that, but playmaker? Not so much. Colorado was back to normal, sort of, when Azira came on for Gashi in the 73rd minute, with Powers moving into the No. 10 spot.
Scott French is a reporter for FourFourTwo. Follow him on Twitter @ScottJFrench.