CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy have a recent history of slow starts, so their unimpressive early record is neither unusual nor worrisome for those in charge.
It's the deficiencies in the Galaxy's game, more than the four-game winless run, that has some on edge, and LA promise things will be different when they face off Sunday afternoon at StubHub Center against the Seattle Sounders (7 pm ET, Fox Sports 1).
“The message this week is give an effort and get after the ball,” defender A.J. DeLaGarza said. “I don't think we're going to have a problem with that this weekend, that's for sure. [If you do], you're not going to be on the field.”
The Galaxy (1-2-2) were simply outworked in their last game, a 2-0 defeat at Vancouver that came just two weeks after they lost most of the battles in a 1-1 home draw with Houston. They've yet to create a coherent attack – their best outing was in a 1-0 loss at D.C. United on March 28 – and are still working on chemistry in nearly every position.
LA have gotten off to a worse five-game start under Bruce Arena only once, going 0-1-4 in 2009 en route to 2-1-9 by June, the top spot in the Western Conference by October, and an MLS Cup final appearance.
“We're not worried real worried about that, to be honest with you,” Arena said Tuesday.
“It will be a concern [if it's still a problem] in the next month or three weeks,” noted associate head coach Dave Sarachan. “That, for me, more alarm bells will go off. Because the first 10 games of the season, I don't care if you're returning everybody or all new faces, it's a work in progress.”
The Galaxy is still figuring out how to play without Landon Donovan, who retired after December's MLS Cup win over New England, and in central midfield, where Juninho so far has had three partners – Kenney Walker, Baggio Husidic and Mika Väyrynen – since Marcelo Sarvas departed in a January trade to Colorado.
“I think everybody's comfortable with the guys that are on the field,” defender Dan Gargan said. “But with that being said, it's not as smooth of a transition, and that takes time to build those relationships and the spatial awareness that comes with those. It's there, and we've certainly seen pieces of games where it works and we're doing it right and when we're able to attack the spots we want to attack and defend where we want to defend on the field, but it hasn't been there for 90 minutes yet.”
The trip to Vancouver was distressing. The Whitecaps were in charge the entire way, scoring two fine second-half goals and allowing the Galaxy one harmless shot on frame and one decent chance, an Edson Buddle header that cleared the crossbar.
LA couldn't match Vancouver's intensity, lost the physical battles and spent much of the evening on their heels.
“Guys are playing with knocks, but you have to get after the ball at some point and get a foul in, get a tackle in, send a message,” DeLaGarza said. “We're just too soft right now. ... Our defenders, we aren't winning tackles, our midfielders aren't winning tackles, and you look at the flip side of it, when we play a ball to our forwards, they're getting battered, like [Whitecaps center backs Kendall] Waston and [Pa Modou] Kah did all day the other day, so we have to be nasty like that.”
Most significantly, the Galaxy thought they got outworked in Vancouver, something that’s unacceptable for everyone at the club.
“The one common denominator is we should never get outworked,” Sarachan said. “And we would all have to look in the mirror and say we got outworked [in Vancouver]. I don't think that's going to happen too much from here on in.
“You learn more in defeat than you do in victory, and I think we've learned a lot about ourselves, and now we've addressed it, and, hopefully, it's going to look a lot different.”