For Landon Donovan, win vs. Seattle a return to 'the top of my game'
SEATTLE — Despite defeating a major Western Conference rival on the road, L.A. Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena was as terse as ever after his team’s 3-0 win over the Seattle Sounders on Monday. He kept his answers to reporters simple, just as he did his lineup selection and the way his team played.
“Win the game,” Arena said. “The objective is to win the game.”
It really was as simple as that for the Galaxy at CenturyLink Field, as L.A. jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first half and effectively finished it off before the halftime break. Rather than trot out a convoluted lineup, Arena put his individual talent in places where it could succeed and let go of the reins.
“We had been playing in a diamond, which was putting a lot more numbers centrally,” Landon Donovan said. “This week, it was very straightforward: you were playing against one guy. It was very simple. That’s what our mindset was. Obviously, there are other things that come into it, and you have to play well and pass well and take your chances when they come.”
Donovan was a major catalyst for L.A. taking its opportunities, continuing his good form since being left off the United States squad for the 2014 World Cup. He assisted the first goal, laying a ball off for Gyasi Zardes to finish at full speed in the eighth minute.
The second goal was a flowing piece of team play that Donovan finished off in the 18th minute, latching onto a rebound from Marcelo Sarvas’ curling shot that goalkeeper Stefan Frei could only palm back into Donovan’s path. DeAndre Yedlin got caught ball-watching at the far post.
Finally, Stefan Ishizaki scored in the 35th minute to cap the scoring after Donovan surged down the left and found Sarvas in the middle, who continued to pass onto Ishizaki on the right. Both Donovan and Sarvas had a hand in all three goals.
As an ever-thoughtful Donovan discussed his individual tribulations after the match, the theme was positive overall, which he said he hasn’t been able to be for a while.
“It was more about my demeanor and my attitude than anything," Donovan said. "I had a good week in training. I felt like I haven’t played well lately, and that’s bothered me. I got myself to the point in early May where I was playing very well, and I was at the top of my game. The last month or so has been difficult for a lot of reasons, and I think my performance dropped off. I wanted to get back to getting to the top of my game, and I felt that way tonight.”
Was Donovan’s dip in form mostly due to being left off the World Cup squad by Jürgen Klinsmann?
“Of course,” Donovan said. “That’s not an easy thing for any player to handle.”
It helps that he’s had a supporting cast that, combined with Donovan’s leadership and productivity, has lost just once in the last 10 matches. Besides the attacking onslaught, L.A. is statistically the best defensive team in the league, conceding just 16 goals in 18 matches or 0.89 per game, both the lowest numbers in Major League Soccer.
“For me, this is the Galaxy of old in the way we played, the shape that we played, the passing, the movement,” forward Robbie Keane said, referencing the L.A. teams that won back-to-back MLS Cups in 2011 and 2012.
It certainly brought back memories of a 2010 match in which L.A. traveled to Seattle and won by a stunning 4-0 score line. It was a result that prompted the Sounders’ brass to refund home fans’ tickets out of embarrassment. Keane said the team needs to maintain its consistency and perform well every week.
“We haven’t really been convincing,” Keane said. “Tonight, we were convincing.”
Donovan looked to the future, unperturbed by the attacking outpour on Monday.
“Let’s not be so dramatic about it," Donovan said. "It’s just one win, and when I look at the standings, Seattle [is] still far ahead. We have a long way to go. More than the win or the score line, I think the way we played was important.”