CARSON, Calif. – Even as the LA Galaxy bombed out in one game after the next to start 2012, crashing out of the CONCACAF Champions League and then stumbling to the Western Conference basement in a 3-8-2 start, things were actually even worse than they appeared.
That's Mike Magee's take on the reigning MLS Cup champions' horrendous first two-and-a-half months to the new season, and he says it required a special intervention by the “big-timers” in the locker room to set things straight.
“It was bad,” Magee told media following the Galaxy's training session Thursday morning at the Home Depot Center. “We downplayed it a bit, but it wasn't like us. There's a lot of veteran guys and guys like myself that just weren't performing. We'd all look at each other, and the worst part was we weren't fighting for each other.
“Obviously, last year, there were times guys had bad days, but everyone else just picked it up,” he added. “This year, no one was picking other guys up.”
A post-championship “hangover” played a role, said Magee, who was pivotal on the left flank in LA's march to Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup trophies, and the Galaxy were too passive in trying to counter what was going wrong.
“We kept saying after every game, like, 'It's going to be all right, it's going to be all right, we'll turn it around,'” he said. “And one day we had a talk with Bruce [Arena] and the captains, and we decided we have to do it. We can't just say it's going to be fine, we got to make it fine.”
The three big guys – captain Landon Donovan (above, right) and fellow Designated Players David Beckham and Robbie Keane (above, left) – made it clear throughout the locker room that the way things were being done wasn't appropriate, Magee said.
And they took the blame.
“Everyone started holding everyone accountable,” Magee said. “There were times even Robbie and David were getting on each other, and Landon, and all three of those guys realized it had to start with them, and it just trickled down where anytime someone made a mistake – it didn't matter who it was – they were being held accountable.
“Which before, it was kind of maybe walking on eggshells or thinking you couldn't say something to somebody because you were a younger player,” he added. “The big-timers on the team stepped up and said, 'If I mess up, you better say something.' And guys did. Guys reacted well.”
“I think hearing those guys hold each other accountable was a big step. When you see David and Landon and Robbie kind of getting on each other and making sure none of them take a play off, well, who are we to take plays off?”
The revitalized Galaxy (9-10-3) have looked increasingly like last year's model since mid-June, going 6-2-1 – and both losses and the draw coulda-shoulda-been victories, they believe – to climb solidly within the playoff zone, one point behind fourth-place Seattle and just four in back of third-place Vancouver.
Magee said everyone “started at square one.” He likes the path the Galaxy are on now, heading into a matchup at FC Dallas on Saturday (8 pm ET, NBC Sports Network, Live Chat on MLSsoccer.com).
“It's not even the results,” he said. “It's just the everyday atmosphere and the way we're working for each other. We know we've turned the corner. So no matter what the result is, we're all battling for the each other and we believe in each other again.”