CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy know they could be in better stead after a dozen games, probably sitting second in the Western Conference, four points in back of Seattle with three games in hand.
Instead, they return from MLS's brief World Cup break with a 4-3-5 mark, good for seventh place, ahead of Saturday's California Clasico showdown with the San Jose Earthquakes at Stanford University (10:30 pm ET; NBCSN/live stream at NBCSports.com), and the most recent evidence suggests they haven't righted what has gone most wrong.
The Galaxy are not turning mostly solid performances into points, and it's because of problems at both ends. The biggest issue: They are not scoring the goals they should be scoring, and that sent them tumbling out of the US Open Cup earlier this week, shut out over 120 minutes by the NASL's Carolina RailHawks despite taking 31 shots.
"We need to score more goals," said Landon Donovan, who didn't get his first of three until late May. "I think we've created some decent chances in games, but we have to be better about scoring goals. I think we're playing very well defensively, but we consistently give up usually one goal in each game that ends up hurting us.
"Either we lose the game or we tie a game that we should win by giving up a sort of soft goal. It's on both sides of the field, and we need to get better about both of those two things. Otherwise, throughout most of the games, we're playing well, we feel good about where we are, but we need to clean those things up."
Head coach Bruce Arena is adamant that the Galaxy have "played much better than our record indicates."
"We need to reward ourselves and get three points in games," he said. "It's absolutely ridiculous that we have in our league three losses and five ties. It's just ridiculous."
Captain Robbie Keane, who has seven of the Galaxy's 16 league goals, doesn't necessarily buy in.
"We needed a reality check," he told media after the loss to Carolina. "We're probably not as good as everyone thinks that we are. We need to start getting back to simple and need a lot more goals, as well, from everybody."
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Said Donovan: "We can't rely on Robbie all the time to pull off plays and score goals. We need to do a better job of other guys stepping up and scoring goals."
Robbie Rogers said LA need to be "hungrier," need to "want it more."
"We need to have that killer instinct in the final third, and on the other side as well, defending our own goal," he said. "Everything else between is great, but that's not where it gets you wins and losses. It's the final thirds [that do]."
This is a crucial moment for LA, who have played fewer games than everyone else in the West – they have at least two games in hand over every foe except San Jose (4-5-4) and five games in hand on fourth-place FC Dallas – and don't have a weekend off the rest of the season.
After the Quakes clash, they're home for three in a row, against Portland, Real Salt Lake and New England, and five of seven.
"We need to win these games," Rogers said. "I'd like to say that [now that we're out of the Open Cup] we can really just focus on each game and know our opponents and just really prepare for those. We don't really have an excuse."