Not even the reserve team is immune to the LA Galaxy's 2012 slide.
The Galaxy crashed out of the US Open Cup after a reserve-laden side coughed up another late lead, bowing out against Carolina with a 2-1 loss on Tuesday.
The loss prevented the club from advancing in the tournament, which would have been progress for a Galaxy side desperate for any sort of success. The loss also kept some of the players who have not been on the field much from playing another match in the near future.
"With the way the season has been going, a lot of us haven’t been getting a lot of minutes," Galaxy midfielder Michael Stephens said. "We were planning on playing next week, so it’s a big disappointment for us."
Instead of gearing up for another SuperClásico – the Galaxy would have hosted Chivas USA, who knocked off Ventura County, 1-0 – the Galaxy now will have to wait until league play resumes on June 17 for their next outing. They will go into that match – a home date with Portland – on a four-game losing streak in all competitions. Overall, the Galaxy are winless in their last eight.
Surrendering leads has plagued the Galaxy all season. LA took early advantages against San Jose on May 23 and against Houston on Saturday, and also scored the first goal against the RailHawks on Tuesday.
Unfortunate circumstances helped their opponents get back into the matches, though. The Galaxy went down to 10 men against San Jose and eventually lost 3-2. Houston's equalizer came via an LA own-goal, and injuries forced Bruce Arena's hand as the Galaxy coach had to use his substitutes to replace injured players.
Carolina's first goal came in the 75th minute and the hosts followed through with the winner just two minutes from full time.
"It’s a point in the game where we were a little fatigued,” Arena said. “We’d used all three of our changes at that point. We had some unfortunate injuries. They were more aggressive obviously in the last 30 minutes."
Hector Jimenez, who helped set up the Galaxy's goal, was forced to leave the match just before the intermission due to a knee injury and was replaced by Bryan Jordan. Striker Chad Barrett, who had combined with Jimenez on the goal, was gone by the 64th minute while Bryan Gaul had to leave the match in the 71st minute.
"The fact that we had three guys come out with injuries, three guys who had actually been playing games, three guys that would have been in to play 90 minutes was a little bit unfortunate," Stephens said. "I think you saw that a lot of guys ran out of legs down the stretch."
With the injuries then, it further compounded the lineup.
"We were resting our other three backs [A.J. DeLaGarza, Sean Franklin and Todd Dunivant] who had played a lot of games and we’ve had a lot of games in a short period of time, so we had to shuffle as best we could the remaining defenders," Arena said.
If there was any bright spot, it was Leonardo's return. The Brazilian center back last played 90 minutes in April 2011, before he tore knee ligaments and was subsequently out of action for the rest of the year and well into 2012. It was perhaps not ideal, but Leonardo came through with a solid performance.
"Remarkable we got 90 minutes out of him,” Arena said. “He’d played 45 minutes in a reserve game previous to this. We didn’t anticipate him playing that long but once we had those injuries and had to make all those changes, he had to stay in there. He did a good job, but obviously he got tired in the end."