First-choice Galaxy backline steals show, ignites offense
CARSON, Calif. – The old backline was together again Sunday night for the LA Galaxy, and it's no coincidence that the old Galaxy showed up, too.
On a wondrous evening at the Home Depot Center, in which LA generated superb performances from every line en route to the most lopsided triumph in SuperClasico history, the 2012 debut of the first-choice back four might have made the biggest impression.
“It felt like we've been doing that for a lot of years now, and we have,” left back Todd Dunivant said following the 4-0 rout of Chivas USA. “It was great. Everyone was pumped up going into the game, and we wanted to make statement, and we came out and got a shutout.”
The Galaxy, who had seen their defense sliced apart in their previous two games – a 5-1 friendly loss to Real Madrid and Seattle's 4-0 league romp that followed – clamped down on their archrival's attack, limiting the Rojiblancos to three shots on goal and just two legitimate chances. There was no space to exploit, few paths into LA's box - and it all helped tilt the field in the other direction as the Galaxy totaled 12 shots on goal.
Landon Donovan, Major League Soccer's Week 23 Player of the Week after assisting on all four goals to tie the league's single-game record, credited the backline's performance for his own, saying that “when we defend that way, it makes my job really easy.”
HIGHLIGHTS: CHV 0, LA 4
The central pairing of Omar Gonzalez (above) and A.J. DeLaGarza was pivotal. Sean Franklin was a force on the right flank, and Dunivant, returning from a calf injury that sidelined him for nearly a month, looked as good as he has this season.
“It felt great to have the old backline, and you could just tell that we all played with confidence,” said Gonzalez, who missed the first four months of the season while recuperating from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. “Everyone was just on, and it finally felt like last year, where everyone was playing from the goalkeeper up to the forward.”
Gonzalez said he and DeLaGarza, who stepped in for David Júnior Lopes in the middle after moving to right back when the 2011 MLS Defender of the Year returned from injury, were a perfect fit.
“It was just back to normal,” he said. “We didn’t have to talk too much. It was nice. We were just in the right positions the whole game, and all I had to do was say his name once, and he knew where to be, and he would do the same to me. It was just really nice.”
The Galaxy, who had given up 39 goals in their first 25 MLS matches, have posted all five of their shutouts since mid-June as they've climbed from the Western Conference basement to within a point of third place. None of the performances, though, were as emphatic as this one.
“We were pressuring the whole game,” Gonzalez said. “We didn’t want to give them any space, and we just wanted to play like we did last year, which was to attack and put a lot of high pressure and just go from there.”