Here's some simple math: Take the 2011 MLS Cup-winning Los Angeles Galaxy. Subtract Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez. Throw the rest on the field against the new-look New England Revolution, and watch what happens.
The Revolution traveled to the West Coast and beat L.A. 3-1 on Saturday night. The win over the defending champion was no ordinary victory. It showed what can happen for the Revs when things go according to plan. The Galaxy was no match for New England and its high-tempo, possession-based approach.
"We're still starting to gel, but, on nights like tonight when they all get together, you can see some of the good stuff that we can do," Revolution head coach Jay Heaps told MLSSoccer.com.
"When you're able keep possession on them, they don't like it. That was our game plan: keep the ball and make 10 or 15 passes when we could. That's what we were able to do and you could see them running a little bit."
Shalrie Joseph emerged from emergency duty on the back line, grabbed his conductor's baton and dictated play from the midfield. The Revolution captain combined with his new midfield partner, Clyde Simms, to make sure the Revs did more than just keep the ball. They owned it, using it to pick their opponents apart and run them ragged.
Scoring early also helps any winning effort (as New England learned last week against the Portland Timbers). The Revolution stunned and bloodied the Galaxy with a pair of goals in the opening quarter-hour.
In the 10th minute, Joseph flighted a cross over the head of not six-foot, four-inch Omar Gonzalez (five-foot, nine-inch defender A.J. DeLaGarza) onto the path of Kelyn Rowe. Goalkeeper Josh Saunders saved Rowe's first shot, but the rebound fell kindly to the Revs' rookie midfielder. He simply poked it past Saunders for his first MLS goal.
Three minutes later, Joseph sent Keving Alston into the Galaxy area with a well-weighted through ball. Alston, the right fullback, powerfully delivered a cross which found Chris Tierney — his counterpart from the left side. Tierney thundered the finish past Saunders, giving the Revs an insurmountable lead.
All that was left for the Revs to do was hold the lead, and pick a spot to add to it. They did so in the 65th minute.
Ryan Guy created space for himself along the right, and picked out Saer Sene in the area. For the second consecutive week, the French striker headed it home from close range.
Robbie Keane cut the deficit with a goal in the 78th minute, but the result was purely academic by then. New England held a possession advantage of around 76 to 34 percent, and strolled to victory at one of the league's most intimidating venues.
They say "it never rains in Southern California." It did on Saturday night, and the Galaxy looked a far cry from that team that steamrolled its way to glory in 2011.
Donovan's absence was telling. The hosts rarely threatened without their irreplaceable star.
Without last year's MLS Defender of the Year (Gonzalez tore his ACL in January) the Galaxy defense has leaked 11 goals in five games. A year ago, it took L.A. 11 games to concede as many. Saturday's loss was L.A.'s third home defeat of the season. Last year saw it go undefeated in 17 regular season games.
"It is frustrating we knew how good we were last year," Galaxy defender Sean Franklin said. "We knew that team spirit in us last year. I think no one fears us this year. Teams are coming in here to our home which they didn’t do last year and beat us. That is something we can’t do. The positive about it is that we still have 30 something games left in the season. We have to get things right now before the end of the season."
L.A.'s pourous defending, plus New England's ball control equaled a seminal victory in Heaps' restoration project. They won't all be this easy, but it's a positive sign of what could be on offer going forward.
See the video below for highlights of New England's 3-1 win over Los Angeles.
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