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Curious center back curse strikes again for Galaxy

CARSON, Calif. — Playing in the middle of the LA Galaxy defense has been hazardous to players’ health this season, and there’s suddenly a concern in camp that something strange is going on.

“It’s a center-back curse this year,” Galaxy defender Gregg Berhalter quipped. “I want to change my position, or I’m not going to call myself a center back.”

Monday’s game against Seattle was the latest installment of the curious trend. A.J. DeLaGarza and Omar Gonzalez each had to leave the game due to injury, and Berhalter and Sean Franklin finished the match as the central-defense pairing.

And while the Galaxy still posted a shutout, there are some questions ahead of the team’s matchup this Saturday against Chicago. How the defense comes out is anyone’s guess a few days before the match, as DeLaGarza (head/face trauma) and Gonzalez (hip pointer) are each listed as questionable.

“We’re really prepared for that,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “I think we’re prepared with five players. We have four center backs with Omar, A.J., Gregg and Sean. We’ve done that starting in preseason out. Bryan Jordan has had some time in that position as well.”

In Tuesday’s Reserve League match, Dan Keat and Kyle Davies paired in central defense, while Jovan Kirovski has also seen time there during reserve matches.

The injuries are only the latest in a string of center-back wounds. In the preseason Berhalter succumbed to a knee injury that he was able to fully ecover from only recently, making his regular-season debut at Colorado on June 18.

Leonardo started the season at center back and played the first seven matches there, but tore ligaments in his knee in the seventh game of the season and was lost for the year. Rookie Sean Alvarado could have helped, but he also suffered a season-ending knee injury.

“It’s strange, but to look at our position in our league, having that many injuries, we’re fortunate,” Berhalter said. “We’re second in goals-against average in the league … so we’re doing some things right. That’s why you train, that’s why you have depth and you work on things. When you’re working on things, it’s not just for the first group, but for everyone so they can see how it’s done.”