Is LA's championship backline set to dominate again?
CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy haven’t played once this season with the backline that was the foundation of their dominance en route to Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup championships last year. Might that quartet debut in Sunday's SuperClasico against Chivas USA?
Could be. All four first-choice defenders in 2011 – Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza and Todd Dunivant – are healthy, and following last week's 4-0 disaster at Seattle, head coach Bruce Arena is mulling his options.
DeLaGarza and Gonzalez, whose center-back partnership dates to their days at NCAA champion Maryland, would love to see it.
“It'll be nice [to get the old] backline together,” Gonzalez, who just returned from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, said after Thursday's training session at Home Depot Center. “Maybe sometime soon we'll be able to see it. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. We ended on a high note last year, so maybe we should get the backline back together.”
Gonzalez, Major League Soccer's Defender of the Year in 2011, and Brazilian David Júnior Lopes haven't developed much chemistry in the middle. DeLaGarza shifted from center back to right back when Gonzalez returned, with Franklin moving up the flank into midfield. Rookie Bryan Gaul has been at left back as Dunivant, an MLS Best XI left back who declared himself “ready to go” Thursday, sat out the past three weeks with a calf injury.
Lopes and Gaul, in particular, were poor against Seattle, and the former was pulled in the 83rd minute.
Arena acknowledged “there's definitely thought” going on about the composition of the back four, but “there's no thought to sharing any of that with” the media.
“You know, I don't think we've had our back four together this year,” he said. “It's a long time not to have your back four. It's made for a lot of tinkering. Obviously, as we're getting healthier, we're able to go with a more consistent group.”
The Franklin-Gonzalez-DeLaGarza-Dunivant line started together in 17 games last year, including all four playoff games, and three of the four were in place in 29 more matches, including all six CONCACAF Champions League group games. LA posted 22 competitive shutouts and conceded just 28 goals in 34 MLS regular-season games.
The Galaxy have given up 39 goals in 24 games this year, more than their season total in nine of 16 previous seasons. Only one LA team, the 2008 side that conceded 62 in 30 games, has a worse goals-against record.
“It would be nice to get the same guys we had last year ...,” DeLaGarza said. “I'd love to be back in the middle.”
Gonzalez would like that, too: “I love playing with A.J. I'd like to see it again.”
Will that happen?
“We'll see,” DeLaGarza said. “I don't know yet. Today we did not too much positional training, so I'm not sure.”