Best defense? With Omar Gonzalez back, LA Galaxy finally have their fearsome foursome
CARSON, Calif. – In 2012, just after the early-June break for internationals, the LA Galaxy started on a second-half tear that culminated in a second straight MLS Cup victory. Omar Gonzalez's return from injury might have played the foremost role in that run.
Robbie Keane thinks that a sequel is possible in 2013. Gonzalez is back from a five-game trek with the US national team, and LA (6-6-3) plan to field their first-choice backline for the first time since May 19 – and for the first time when fully healthy since March.
“I think it was a similar situation last year, wasn't it?” the Galaxy captain said in advance of Sunday night's SuperClasico showdown with Chivas USA at the StubHub Center (11 pm ET; UniMas). “The start of last year [was below par], and then the second half of the season, everyone seemed to be fit.”
Gonzalez, who missed the first half of last year with a knee injury, returns after solid performances over two friendlies and three World Cup qualifiers which have the US on the verge of Brazil 2014. He played every minute at center back, says he believes “I was pretty solid,” and if there's “a couple plays” that could have been better, “a couple out of hundred isn't that bad.”
What has he learned?
“That I belong there,” said Gonzalez, who snagged a starting job under Jurgen Klinsmann at the start of the year. “I think that's one thing that I've learned, and not to really question myself and keep on looking forward. If I do make a mistake, then you know you just keep on moving forward and you get over it and look to the next game.”
The Galaxy's defense has been hit and largely miss much of the year, mostly by conceding late, decisive goals, and they conceded eight goals in the first two matches after Gonzalez left for US camp. He was on hand, watching from the stands, for Wednesday's 0-0 draw with Portland, one of LA's best defensive showings this year.
“From the little bit that I saw [of the losses to New England and Real Salt Lake], I thought we had good stretches of play, but at the end, we end up giving up goals, and that's not acceptable,” Gonzalez said.
Left back Todd Dunivant's return from a leg injury, which had sidelined him for all but three matches since the CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series against Monterrey in early April, helped LA defensively Wednesday.
A.J. DeLaGarza has had some sterling performances in the middle, and Sean Franklin has been consistent at right back after playing in midfield early in the campaign. The Galaxy are unquestionably better at the back when all four are on the field.
“I think it's the relationship with everyone,” said DeLaGarza, who has partnered Gonzalez in the middle since their days at the University of Maryland. “We've all be playing with that back four for four years, I guess you could say. We know each other really well, and that's been our best [feature].
"You see the teams that are the most successful are those teams that have been together for a while, and this team is one of those.”