As LA Galaxy’s 29-game winning at home streak spanning over a year (the Galaxy’s last lost at StubHub was their 2014 MLS opener), came to a close yesterday, and Montreal and NYCFC ended their losing streaks, the epicenter of MLS Saturday stories was naturally “streaks.”
Robbie Keane made his first start since early April and played a full 90 minutes, Edson Buddle (with his first start of the season) put in a noticeable effort early on, Ignacio Maganto had his fare share of possession and unlucky fouls, Alan Gordon entered the foray as a substitute, but no one got a legitimate chance at a goal, save one second half cross from Ishizaki in the second half to Gordon who was just barely unable to tap it. The substitutions of Lleget and Walker, resulted in a better second half for LA, but the Whitecaps were still able to keep the Galaxy out of the box for the most part. And, here’s one for a shocking headline, LA had zero attempts on goal. Which made it easy for Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted, to net his seventh shutout of the season.
Kekuta Manneh, a thorn in LA’s side for much of the first half and a likely shoe-in for the USMNT, scored the lone goal in the 32nd minute after receiving a failed pass from the Galaxy’s midfield and outmaneuvering Omar Gonzalez. Vancouver’s well-organized defense proved too much for LA’s lineup. The score could’ve easily been worse for LA, were it not for a post getting in Pedro Morales‘s way and an unlucky pass from Octavio Rivero to Darren Mattocks.
“We should have shot a few more times, particularly in that second half. They did a good job. Had a lot of players of players behind the ball who made it tough around the penalty area.”
So is a streak a real psychological or scientific phenomenon? In 1985, an influential study by psychologists at Cornell and Stanford Universities argued that the ‘hot hand’ was simply a human response of searching for patterns in what is otherwise just randomness and probability. And then came decades of more research, culminating in a vindication for all believers in hot streaks. Using 3-point shots as the indicator for NBA players’ hot and cold streaks, a statistically significant finding revealed that the hot hand is likely quite real, whereas the cold hand is not. Either way, streaks create a context to explain the often inexplicable. It’s our way of making sense of sports and life. In the end, does it matter much? From a psychological standpoint, to an athlete, it depends who you’re talking to. Some are more superstitious than others. Some have the experience to know that streaks come and go all the time. The real mental game in the game happens outside of the streak.
This is how Kekuta Manneh responded to the prospect of a streak specter that he and his teammates fought against at the StubHub Center: “It was a great result, we have never won here I heard, so it was a good win for us going into the break and we can put our feet up and relax. It was a really good win for us.”
In the end, results aren’t about just streaks or fitness or possession (LA had over 65% possession last night). It’s what you do with them to create form and a plan. And head coach, Bruce Arena knows it.
“Conceding that goal in the first half, it was tailor made for their team. The way they play, and with their speed on the counter, and we gave away a ball in our middle third of the field and they got a goal. They certainly did a very good job having good numbers behind the ball, and countering us in the second half. We had some chances to have a little bit better quality, perhaps create a few dangerous chances, but we fell short.”
The Galaxy head east to play Columbus Crew next Saturday. Let’s see what happens with a clean slate.