Galaxy defense back at its best form in LA's latest win
CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy are unbeaten and have conceded just one goal in four Major League Soccer games since reassembling their first-choice backline the second week of August.
The defense was at its best in Saturday's 2-0 triumph over visiting Vancouver, settling down an energetic Whitecaps attack and allowing them just two shots — neither on target — from otherwise decent work.
Head coach Bruce Arena wouldn't declare it the best backline job of the season — “I'll let you kind of conclude that,” he said during the postgame news conference — but he sure was pleased after the group posted its second straight shutout and the Galaxy's third in a row across all competitions.
“It was good,” Arena said. “It was good tonight. Omar [Gonzalez] and A.J. [DeLaGarza] continue to play well in their partnership in central defense. I think [Sean] Franklin has played very well the last couple months. Todd [Dunivant] is moving along, and Josh [Saunders] looks very comfortable in the goal right now. That group is good.”
Said Gonzalez (above): “We all did really well defensively, from our forwards to our midfield to our backline. We knew [Whitecaps striker Kenny] Miller was good at making runs, so we just tried to drop off before he could make that run and keep him in front of us.”
The backline has been outstanding since Dunivant came back from a calf injury Aug. 12. Gonzalez was already a 90-minute man after returning in July from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and the 4-0 romp over Chivas USA was the first game the quartet had been together since LA's post-championship tour of Southeast Asia and Australia last fall.
The Galaxy conceded once in the 1-1 draw Aug. 15 with Columbus — a Jairo Arrieta shot from outside the box that Saunders should have stopped — and twice more, the second a penalty kick, in a 5-2 CONCACAF Champions League victory over El Salvador's Isidro Metapán. Since then, they've posted successive shutouts over FC Dallas, Puerto Rico Islanders (in the CCL, with a reserve lineup) and now the Whitecaps.
The Galaxy have seven shutouts in 15 MLS games since mid-June after posting none in their first 13 matches, but they were surrendering goals at nearly the same rate until the first-choice unit regrouped. Foes scored 21 times in LA's 3-8-2 start and 16 more in the first 11 games after the league's minibreak for June's World Cup qualifiers, with San Jose and Seattle netting four apiece and Portland three. The Galaxy's 7-3-1 record in that span was mostly about their 23 goals.
Now LA are defending much like they did last year, when they had shutouts in 17 of 34 regular-season games, two of four playoff games and three of six CCL contests. To hold a rather vibrant Vancouver attack to no shots on goal was certainly illuminating.
“We've given up one goal [in league play] since the back four from last year has been together,” Gonzalez said. “So I'd say we've been doing pretty well.”