May 17, 2014, 11:18 PM EST
There are two, related truths that have defined the first months of the LA Galaxy season. First, if Robbie Keane is held without a goal, as he has been on three occasions, Los Angeles loses. Second, when they do fall, the Galaxy do so 1-0, with tonight’s one-goal defeat in Houston underscoring the team’s dependence on their captain’s production.
Pulled into a more withdrawn, attacking midfield role in the absence of Landon Donovan, Keane only had one good chance on the night – a 31st minute shot that was blocked by Warren Creavalle. The forwards he left up top, however, did little better. Rob Friend continues to be little more than a willing target, while Samuel’s missed chance in the first minute proved costly – one of only two good chances for Los Angeles on the night. Though they again controlled possession (and forced David Horst into one goal line clearance), the Galaxy failed to create enough good chances.
The better ones, scarce as they were, fell to Houston, who saw Andrew Driver play a ball from the right against the left post early in the second half, continuing the midfielder’s finishing woes. Three minutes later, that miss was forgotten when Driver pounced on this match-defining mistake from Jaime Penedo, setting up Giles Barnes to finish off the right post:
For a player of his talent, Penedo seems far too mistake-prone. Whether we’re talking about technical errors, like on last week’s stoppage time goal from Portland’s Diego Valeri, or mental, where he compounds Dan Gargan’s mistake by not at least clearing that ball, there are too many times where something you wouldn’t expect from a LA Galaxy number one Penedo’s team. He’s a huge upgrade on Carlo Cudicini, but occasionally, he’s still a problem (particularly when his defense is not doing him any favors).
Combine that with the loss of Donovan’s creativity and the lack of goals from Robbie Keane, and in hindsight, LA seem set up to lose in Houston. As the Dynamo showed last week against Columbus, if there’s a team that can mentally and stylistically hold out to take advantage of a possession team’s mistakes, it’s Houston. Rebounding from their post-March slump, Houston’s now won three of four.
As for the Galaxy, it was a poor result but not a terrible performance. The team needs to find somebody besides Keane who can produce, but they have five months to get there. Holding 56 percent of the ball, limiting Houston to a couple of chances, the Galaxy’s underlying performance is fine. They just need the more obvious elements to produce something on the scoresheet.
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