Galaxy wary of Dynamo's prowess on set pieces

CARSON, Calif. – Brad Davis may not be on the field Sunday for MLS Cup 2011, but that won’t harm Houston’s ability to attack on set pieces.

Even without one of the league’s top set-piece specialists, LA Galaxy players said Houston’s ability to score on restarts will be an area of concern and one that will require and demand great attention on the part of the hosts.

“We’re going to try and limit as many set-piece opportunities [as possible],” Galaxy defender Sean Franklin told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “They’ve scored 22 goals on set pieces and five in the postseason. They’re a great team on set pieces. They’re a big team. They get great service and we just have to be aware of that and not make dumb fouls.”

Davis has been successful throughout the season at picking out players on free kicks and corner kicks, as well as from the flanks in the run of play. With the options he had, it’s not at all difficult to see why.

“They’re dangerous from crosses,” Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant told MLSsoccer.com. “They’re dangerous on set pieces. Losing Brad Davis hurts a little bit, but they’ve got a lot of guys that can put the ball on the box. They have big bodies. They have [Brian] Ching, [Geoff] Cameron, [Bobby] Boswell coming on set pieces – [Andre] Hainault – they've got a lot of guys who are dangerous. That's what they look for.”

Being aware of that is just as important as defending the set pieces themselves.

“Give up as few [set pieces] as possible,” Galaxy defender Gregg Berhalter told MLSsoccer.com. “Prevention is the first key, right? So once you prevent it, that limits their chances. If you don’t prevent them, they get them and you have to be concentrated, you have to be physical, you have to be paying attention because it’s one guy sleeping who can create space and give them that telling goal.”

While overall the Galaxy have had few chinks in their armor, marking on set pieces has been one of them. LA allowed set-piece goals down the stretch with somewhat alarming regularity – alarming at least for a club of the Galaxy’s defensive stature.

Each of the CONCACAF Champions League matches the Galaxy lost, for instance, came via a set-piece goal – a Miguel Sabah header off a corner kick in Morelia and a Pablo Gabas free kick in Costa Rica. Also, both of the goals Real Salt Lake scored against the Galaxy late in the year – on Oct. 1 and Nov. 7 – came off set pieces.

“People are going to have to want it a lot more on this team,” Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez said last week. “We’ve been letting up goals on set pieces in the last third of this year, specifically. I don’t know what it’s been, but I think everyone knows that that’s been one of our weaknesses the last third of the season. Everyone knows they have to step up and mark the right way."

Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached at buenodad@gmail.com.