CARSON, Calif. – Despite the presence of some very talented attacking players, the LA Galaxy’s stellar achievements from 2009 to 2011 were built on defending.
Three games into the 2012 season, the club would do well to recall that.
“We’ve built our success these last three years on defending first and we’ve kind of gotten away from that,” Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant (above) told MLSsoccer.com, “and you’ve seen the results – we’ve given up seven goals in three games. If we get that mentality right, we’ll be fine again.”
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Entering Saturday’s match against Sporting KC at Livestrong Sporting Park (4 pm ET; ESPN, ESPN Deportes, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com), the Galaxy sit with a 1-2 record and have been outscored this season 7-5. They have yielded 11 goals in all competitions this season as the club has scrambled to fix a leaky defense.
Pundits and observers will point to Omar Gonzalez’s absence as the cause to this situation. The 2011 Defender of the Year tore knee ligaments while training with Bundesliga outfit FC Nürnberg in February and will be out until later this season. But his center back partner from a year ago disagrees with that assessment.
“It is too simple to say that,” A.J. DeLaGarza said. “It’s not just one person who is making errors, it’s not like Omar’s going to step in and help everybody. Everybody has to help themselves and do better and not make the errors we’ve been making.”
Perhaps more alarming than the amount of goals the club has given up is the manner in which they have come. Players have allowed too much space both on the flanks and in front of the goal as opponents are all but roaming freely in the Galaxy’s defensive third.
“Not enough pressure on the ball, not enough marking in the box,” DeLaGarza said. “We play in a very good league where if guys have free service, they can put it anywhere.”
To lay blame on the defenders alone though is to lay blame incorrectly. Not only does the backline need to be sharper but all the players on the field, from the strikers all the way back to the goalkeeper, are responsible for the team’s defensive shortcomings.
“It’s on all of us,” Dunivant said. “The guys out wide, we have to prevent service and we have to do better with the balls in the box. It’s both ends of it. It’s not just defense, it’s the midfielders, it’s the forwards, it’s the mentality of our team that we need to get back and that’s the biggest thing.”
Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.