Still without clean sheet, Galaxy backline eyes stability
CARSON, Calif. — With every game of the 2012 season, the LA Galaxy are slowly figuring things out and earning results the way they’ve been accustomed to over the last three years.
But there’s one part of the field that has not yet fully come around: The team has yet to post a shutout.
The Galaxy will enter Saturday’s match against FC Dallas (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online) without a clean sheet to their credit in six league games. With the team riding a two-match winning streak now, is that defensive statistic meaningful at all?
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“It’s reflective of not playing as well as we can on the defensive end of the field,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “If you don’t have a shutout, it means you’re not playing great defensively. There can be exceptions to that — there could be a poor call by a referee as we saw on Saturday. We haven’t been as good as we need to be, but we’ll get there.”
Thus far in 2012, the Galaxy are not alone when it comes to their lack of shutouts. Entering the weekend’s games, New York, Montreal and Toronto FC will also be looking to pick up their first clean sheet this year.
“Teams are missing players, some teams are still trying to figure out their role is and attacking players are taking advantage of that,” said LA defender A.J. DeLaGarza. “As you get into [the season] and teams get more comfortable with one another, defensive shape gets better and I think shutouts will come.”
LA have gone on longer shutout dry spells. The 2006 squad did not pick up a clean sheet until their 15th game of the season, while the 2003 team went eight straight games without a shutout to start that season.
Still, the Galaxy’s success in recent years has been built on defense. In 2010, the Galaxy had nine shutouts in their first 11 games. A year ago, they had four shutouts in their first eight games.
“We’ve had four different backlines in the early season," DeLaGarza said in reference to 2012. "Getting comfortable with someone and that consistently really helps. Me and Omar [Gonzalez] played together for six years. Once you play with someone for a while, you get used to them and know their tendencies and it makes it a lot easier. Right now, we’re just looking for some consistency.”
As they find their consistency, it helps to have notched two straight wins, 3-1 win over Portland and a 2-1 triumph at Colorado, giving LA a 3-3 record and allowing them to climb the table. And that counts for a lot.
“The most important thing right now,” Arena said, “is the three points as opposed to the shutouts.”
Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.