CARSON, Calif. – Lost in the discussion about the LA Galaxy's alarming propensity to give up late, decisive goals is that their overall defensive work has been quite good this season. Especially in the past month or so.
The Galaxy permitted Vancouver barely a sniff at their box and just two legitimate chances en route to a 2-1 victory on Saturday, and it's not the first time they've done so. LA have dominated nearly every foe since that 5-0 debacle at New England on June 2, and, if not for late mistakes at San Jose and Portland, would be riding a seven-game unbeaten streak with wins in five of their last six encounters.
The Whitecaps managed just four shots (to LA's 22) on Saturday and two on frame, the 11th time in 21 league games this season that the Galaxy have conceded three or fewer shots on goal.
“We're somehow defending really, really well and giving up a lot of goals, which is strange,” left back Todd Dunivant noted after LA (10-8-3) vaulted to third in the Western Conference standings, just four points behind Supporters' Shield leaders Real Salt Lake. “Obviously, that's concerning, but it's also good in that our foundation's really good. Our defensive work's really good. We're limiting chances big-time.”
The Galaxy have outshot 15 of 21 opponents – they've taken more than 20 shots in their last three victories – and hit double-digits in all but four games. Only eight opponents have had at least 10 shots, and just one (San Jose) in the last seven matches.
“This whole season, I think we've been pretty solid on defense, it's just those late goals that you could say we've done poor on,” backline leader Omar Gonzalez said. “Those aside, throughout the game we play really well.
"[Against Vancouver] from top to bottom everyone played good defense, and from that good defense chances were created, we won the ball back, and then transitioned to offense right away. And we really put a lot of pressure on Vancouver.”
The Galaxy's inability to turn such pressure, and their impressive statistics, into more goals has hindered them as much as the end-of-game calamities, enabling otherwise beaten foes to be in position for some late heroics.
Vancouver were in such a spot Saturday. The Galaxy managed stoppage time better than they had in the last-minute losses vs. the Quakes and Timbers, taking the ball to the corner and making sure they kept numbers behind the ball, but the Whitecaps won a 93rd-minute free kick, which led to a corner kick and a few moments of real concern.
Six-foot-4 forward Tommy Heinemann, a stoppage-time substitute, was virtually free in the box on the corner, but the delivery was poor, and the Galaxy slipped away from trouble.
“They had an extra guy in there, Heinemann, and so we just didn't know who was going to mark him,” Gonzalez said. “[Five-foot-6 midfielder Rafa Garcia] went to him, and the height difference was quite staggering. It ended up where nothing bad happened, so that was good.”
LA deserved a more pronounced result than they got, but that's happened again and again this year.
“I think this has been many games, we are playing this way,” midfielder Marcelo Sarvas said when asked about LA's domination. “Even the games that we lost have been in this way. The difference is always one goal.
"The important thing is the team reacted good from [the previous weekend's loss at Portland] and we created chances. The team is playing good. That is more important.”