What did our beloved Claret and Cobalt do the evening of March, 10th? They did what they trained for. They did what they most wanted. They did what they are capable of. They “came to score” (The Aggrolites).
Well, that was some way for our boys to start off their big home stand, wasn't it? That was, no doubt, one of the most subpar performances from this team in some time. Sure, the first, what, 20 minutes were excellent. Two early goals, and it looked like we might have been coasting from there.
And we were. Or at least we thought we could. We coasted along quite nicely until we hit a major speed bump in the form of an unusually bad back pass and one Landon Donovan put the ball in the back of the net. That Landon Donovan fellow looked as active and engaged as he's ever been, and he was causing problems all night: He scored two and assisted one, and he could have had more. Easily.
So what happened? That's the question of the day. How did we go from looking like the best team in the league to looking deflated and dismayed? After the first goal, we didn't drop our heads too much. Individual mistakes happen. Tony Beltran may not have had his best night as a defender, but these things happen. You cannot blame the individual for the team issue. And it was very much a team issue last night.
Their second goal really took the wind from our sails. We'd gone from being two goals ahead to being drawn level, and at that point, we decided to go for a win — again. All credit to Jason Kreis for that decision. It would have been perhaps easy and safe to shut up shop and just prevent another goal from stinging our side, but to do so would have lacked ambition. Jason said it best: We play to win at home. It's a respectable position.
But with the wind taken out of our sails, no amount of belief from the manager, no tactical adjustment, nothing seemed to get us moving again. We looked just like the side that lost to Minnesota on that dark day. We saw our chance, we threw our chance in the bin; our rivals took the opportunity to make us pay. It was as frustrating a match as you'll ever see. If we're to lose, I'd like us to lose with dignity, not with despair.
Tactically, Jason didn't seem to get too much wrong coming into the match. Our high line helped our possession game, as we were given a relatively easy out to the defenders from the midfield. Now, that may have come back to hurt us in the end, but that's not down to tactics but to individual and team errors. Again, there will be no blaming of individuals here. If you'd like that, go somewhere else.
As I was saying, our high line was an effective tactical move, but our error-prone ways caused problems for us. Too many times we lost the ball, didn't step up properly, and let Landon Donovan streak in from deep. Time and time again, we were hit with the same method of attack. It was a one-dimensional effort from a one-dimensional team, but it worked — boy, did it work.
Where do we go from here? It's important to remember that we're still at the top of the combined league standings. Things are not dire. We can and will improve on last night. But we can't let these things happen. Was it rustiness? No, I don't think so. Perhaps it was overconfidence. Two early goals, and we thought we had it in the bag. Surely we cannot make the same mistake again. We would be foolish to.
Recovery, swift and fast may it come, is on order. We'll get a chance for that on Saturday. Now, we just need to take any opportunity that comes our way with both hands. We've got to stand up and show that we're better than this.