CARSON, Calif. — That enormous gaping hole in the center of the LA Galaxy’s defense? Maybe it doesn’t actually exist.
Sure, Omar Gonzalez will miss most, if not all, of the 2012 MLS season with torn knee ligaments. But players say there is enough on the roster to more than make up for that. Part of that confidence stems from rookie Tommy Meyer, who, despite not having played a minute in MLS, is showing signs of strong and immediate success.
“I like Tommy a lot, actually,” left back Todd Dunivant told reporters on Tuesday. “He’s very good passing out of the back. He’s comfortable on the ball, and in terms of the defending stuff, that will come.”
Meyer was the last pick in January’s SuperDraft, but his rookie status so far has not held him back. He’s paired with A.J. DeLaGarza in each of the Galaxy’s first two preseason matches, against the LA Blues and Portland Timbers.
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena may have slotted Meyer in the heart of the defense from the get-go, but the Indiana product is not reading much into that.
“I try not to think about that right now,” Meyer said. “You always want to prepare yourself to get minutes during the year. You just have to keep working hard every day. That’s my goal: hopefully get some starting minutes during the season.”
As a rookie, Meyer will have to adjust to the speed of MLS matches, and that adjustment could feature some growing pains. If his performances are any indication, though, that learning curve may not be too steep and could be minimized by the time the season starts.
Against the Blues, Meyer was wrong-footed on two occasions, one of which led to a goal. Against Portland, Meyer looked solid and more settled. Portland scored two early goals but the Timbers did their damage on the flanks, not through the heart of the Galaxy’s defense.
“You just have to work every day to get better,” Meyer said. “Coming in from college is always an adjustment. As long as I keep learning every day, keep getting better, that’s going to help me.”
Even though he’s inexperienced and relatively young — Meyer will turn 22 in late March — the St. Louis native will also develop another aspect of central defense that cannot be overlooked.
“[He] needs to be a leader,” Dunivant said. “As a center back, you can’t just be quiet. You can’t just hope for other people to kind of lead you through it. You have to be the guy who is talking to guys as well and directing people and taking charge and that will come throughout preseason. He has a real attitude, wants to learn and asks lots of questions. That’s what you want from your young guys.”
Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.