The buildup to this glitzy meeting between LA Galaxy and New York City FC focused on the household names and the star power they brought. The match itself underscored the important of the collective instead as the Galaxy produced a comprehensive performance to secure a 5-1 victory at StubHub Center.
Robbie Keane served as the integral figure once again as he strung everything together to pull the Galaxy forward once more. He overcame a series of early misses to prompt Gyasi Zardes' opener before the break and snatch the killer second shortly after halftime. Giovani dos Santos and Sebastian Lletget extended the lead as the home side romped. David Villa sliced the deficit from the spot in the final 10 minutes, but Keane turned home a Robbie Rogers cross second later to apply a deserved exclamation point.
This rout continued the Galaxy's summer resurgence and underscored NYCFC's troubles building around Frank Lampard, Andrea Pirlo and Villa. Lampard missed out again through injury, but Pirlo and Villa suffered on a day when their supporting cast wilted under the pressure created by a cohesive opponent bolstered by the class of dos Santos, Keane and Steven Gerrard. The defeat delivered another instructive and painful lesson about the importance of teambuilding for the expansion side as it continues to somehow push forward in search of a playoff berth.
NYCFC started well with considerable focus on compact, organized work within its shape. The combination of Kwadwo Poku and David Villa posed problems for the Galaxy defense with movement up front, while NYCFC managed to keep the proper numbers behind the ball and prevent the Galaxy from breaking quickly in the early stages. Villa nearly punished the home side for it, but Donovan Ricketts did just enough to push aside the effort.
The bright start proved no more than a mirage as NYCFC conceded the cadence of the game and descended into its usual blend of open midfield play and suspect work in the defensive third. The lack of pressure and tempo from the visitors urged the Galaxy to seize firm control of the proceedings.
Only a dearth of precision spared NYCFC as the Galaxy piled forward. Keane fired into an onrushing defender and then screwed his header over the bar from six yards. Keane's uncharacteristic wastefulness continued when he hit the bar from a similar distance after Josh Saunders flapped at Lletget's tempting back post cross. Lletget saw his poke over the line correctly ruled out for offside as the Galaxy exhibited their dominance.
NYCFC continued to undermine its own cause with basic errors and poor attention to detail. The lack of cohesion in midfield allowed the Galaxy to play through easily, while the dearth of solidity at the back permitted even the simplest of moves to pose danger.
Saunders rescued NYCFC again when he parried away dos Santos' effort after a dreadful square pass, but he could not prevent the inevitable after a complete team collapse nine minutes before halftime.
The entire sequence captured the gulf between the teams in a nutshell as the Galaxy's intelligent recognition punished NYCFC ruthlessly for a lack of concentration. Juninho played a quick free kick in middle third and sprayed out to the unmarked Keane on the right. Zardes cut across his static marker and nodded home the resulting cross to give the Galaxy a deserved lead.
Poku -- one of the few NYCFC bright spots in his role just off Villa -- nearly engineered an equalizer moments later. He barged through the heart of the Galaxy defense with a combination of close control and intent only to see Tommy McNamara blaze over the bar with Ricketts rushing off his line to close down the angle.
The miss loomed as a vital opportunity for NYCFC to stem the tide, but the Galaxy moved onwards without a hitch. A flurry of chances right before the interval nearly yielded a second as NYCFC continued to buckle without showing any signs of shoring up those pervasive defensive concerns.
Keane dispelled any lingering doubts about the outcome with the second nine minutes after halftime. It looked all too easy as dos Santos drifted into space on the right, picked up his head without any pressure to trouble him and slotted a pass behind the line. Keane glided behind the static defense and poked home his 14th goal in his last 10 competitive matches.
By that stage, the question transformed from the outcome of the game to the margin of victory. NYCFC invited the Galaxy forward with the space allowed from back to front and showed little desire to address the problem. The reigning champions marauded forward and punished them in kind.
Dos Santos continued his encouraging start to life in MLS by collecting a Keane pass and dispatching it for the third. Lletget snatched a goal after more good work from Keane to secure the fourth as the Galaxy ran rampant.
Villa grabbed his 15th goal from the spot after Dan Gargan chopped down Patrick Mullins inside the penalty area, but Keane rounded off a two-versus-one to complete this thumping in style and secure the Galaxy's 1000th goal in MLS play. It supplied a fitting ending to this thoroughly deserved victory and underscored the menace posed by the defending champions with the postseason quickly approaching.