Goal scorers are the easiest players to reward in football. They steal the headlines and get most of the attention, but their end product is often the result of a team’s control of a match and creation in the middle third of the field.
Marcelo Sarvas’ performance, along with central-midfield partner Juninho, in the LA Galaxy’s 3-0 win over Toronto FC is directly indicative of that kind of attacking dynamic. Robbie Keane scored twice — but without Sarvas’ passing, he doesn’t get the first one, and LA has a much tougher time creating opportunities and controlling the match.
The Galaxy have turned on the passing game of late, completing one-twos through opposition defensive blocks and seemingly creating goals at will. Sarvas completed 95 percent of his passing attempts on Saturday, and Juninho was successful 97 percent of the time.
What separated the two, and what makes Sarvas’ performance just a touch more important to the final score, was his ability to pick out the final pass. On Keane and LA’s first goal, the central midfielders initiated a series of short, one-touch passes in the middle channel before Sarvas dribbled forward into Zone 14, the crucial area on top of the 18-yard box where most goals are created.
He waited until a defender committed himself to pressuring, then sliced a pass between two players and into Keane’s path for a quick two-touch finish from about the penalty spot. Sarvas wrapped all the qualities of a playmaker into that one play — technique, vision and calmness under pressure — and the ball ended up in the back of TFC’s net.
In stoppage time, Alan Gordon finished off another Sarvas ball, although his long-range finish did most of the work after Sarvas played a simple ball to him in midfield. It was a worthy reward for the work Sarvas did all night, though, running the middle of the field and giving LA control of the match in a fashion the team has shown frequently as of late.
He’s this week’s Player of the Week, joined by 10 others on the Best XI:
Planet Fútbol MLS Best XI — Week 30
• Evan Bush (Montreal Impact): He’s had his shaky moments this year, but Bush has also come up big on several occasions for Montreal. On Sunday, he made eight saves in a 0-0 shutout of Chicago, the best of which was his stop on Quincy Amarikwa’s looping header in just the ninth minute.
• Bobby Burling (Chivas USA): Burling made a whopping 14 clearances in Chivas’ 1-0 win over RSL in a traditional ball-winning central-defensive role. He played his disruptive role well, also advancing to hit the post with a header.
• Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City): Besler made nine clearances and eight interceptions in Kansas City’s scoreless draw against D.C. He anchored a solid defensive display that was more than welcome for a team that conceded 14 goals in its previous six matches.
• Kendall Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps): Waston led all players in Vancouver’s 2-0 win over Dallas with eight interceptions and 10 clearances. He has been a great late-season addition for Vancouver, starting seven matches and providing a solid presence in the back and a threat in the box going forward.
• Sebastián Fernández (Vancouver Whitecaps): Fernández scored twice in the first 18 minutes, just four minutes apart, in Vancouver’s important 2-0 win over Dallas. The 24-year-old Uruguayan again showed some of the spark that made Carl Robinson want to sign him, although he’s been somewhat inconsistent in adapting to MLS his first season.
• Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls): McCarty set New York’s attacking tempo in a 1-0 win over Houston with 90 percent passing and the highest number of touches on his team. Never shy of the ball, he also took four shots and finished tied for the most interceptions (four) in the match.
• Marcelo Sarvas (LA Galaxy): Sarvas set up two goals for the Galaxy in their 3-0 win over Toronto. The Brazilian created three goalscoring opportunities total and completed 95 percent of his passes; his partner, Juninho, completed 97 percent as LA overran the midfield against TFC.
• Rodney Wallace (Portland Timbers): In his ninth start of an injury-shortened season, Wallace put two past the Earthquakes to give Portland a 2-1 win. He’s been one of Caleb Porter’s most consistent players over two seasons, continuing his revitalization under the new manager that started last year.
• Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy): Keane scored twice more last weekend against Toronto. At this point, he looks as viable an MVP candidate as any, especially if LA finishes this current run with a Supporters' Shield.
• Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders): Dempsey was all over the place in the Sounders’ 4-1 win in Colorado. He scored on a penalty, hit the woodwork and assisted Marco Pappa’s goal on Sunday.
• Obafemi Martins (Seattle Sounders): Martins also scored twice for Seattle. It’s tough to picture Dempsey’s success without Martins’, and vice-versa; the two have become perhaps the best forward pairing in MLS after needing some time to gel between 2013 and 2014.