LA Galaxy's defensive performance vs. Real Salt Lake recalls recent MLS Cup-winning blueprint

CARSON, Calif. -- The LA Galaxy played a lot of dynamic soccer the first three months of this season, dictating terms from start to finish in more games than not but too often failing to get the points they deserved.

Now they've got a nice little run going -- with a seven-game unbeaten streak, four of them wins -- and it's mostly about grinding out tough victories, like they used to do, back when they won back-to-back MLS Cup titles.

They gave another fierce defensive performance in Saturday night's 1-0 triumph over visiting Real Salt Lake, and if it wasn't everything they hoped for, it was certainly enough.

"We've played a number of games this year where we've dominated possession, dominated chances, and tied or lost," Landon Donovan said after the Galaxy (6-3-6) climbed within a point of fifth place in the Western Conference, with games still in hand. "And it's OK to have games like this, where the positives are the effort and the defending and the competitiveness and that kind of stuff.

"Tonight, I thought that was excellent. [RSL was] great, too -- I mean they played well, too, give them a lot of credit -- but we were smart enough to not have a lot of the ball but defend well and create a number of chances for ourselves, and Jaime [Penedo, the goalkeeper] did well, the back four did well, and our only fault was not scoring another goal."

It was somewhat similar to LA's 1-0 victory over San Jose two weeks ago, another tight game that required a gutty effort.

RSL had far more of the ball and spent much of the second half trying to overcome Gyasi Zardes' 20th-minute strike. They created chances -- good ones for Joao Plata and Ned Grabavoy -- but not nearly as many as their possession might have warranted.

"I think you saw a bunch of guys making plays that we haven't been making," said A.J. DeLaGarza, who partnered Tommy Meyer in central defense with Omar Gonzalez nursing an ankle injury. "Just all-around good team defense. They didn't have too many chances, nothing too dangerous."

How dangerous the chances might have been is a matter of perception, and Penedo needed to make six saves, a couple really fine ones included. But RSL struggled to exploit what space they found.

Left back Robbie Rogers said it was the kind of game that "builds character."

"It was tough, it was really tough," he said. "Especially the second half. They put a number of guys forward, and their movement is really great. [Javier] Morales always finds the ball in great spots, and tracking runners and all that stuff, I thought we did well."

Right back Dan Gargan agreed.

"They threw a lot at us," he said. "I think that we had a lot of work going on behind the ball, and that's good. Any time you can get a defensive performance from everyone on the field and keep a clean sheet, you can walk off feeling good about that. It's probably a little sloppy in terms of our possession and stuff like that, but our effort and our work rate were pretty impressive."