CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy are, indeed, getting better, not that the results offer much consolation. Goals are coming – and near-goals, too, with Romain Alessandrini and Zlatan Ibrahimovic hammering balls off the right post in last weekend's loss at FC Dallas – but the inability to stop the other side from hitting the net too often has been costly.
LA's losing streak has hit four games, the last three by 3-2 scorelines, and they have conceded 16 goals of the 19 that have gotten past goalkeeper David Bingham this season in their last seven games. Opponents have struck first seven times in 10 matches, and the Galaxy have overcome that just once, in Ibrahimovic's stirring debut against LAFC.
The Swedish star has a simple solution for what ails his new club.
“I think we should score first and don't concede nothing,” he said in advance of LA's clash Monday afternoon in Montreal. “That is what I think. Then you get the three points.”
The Galaxy are working diligently to clean up the defensive mistakes, all over the field, that have doomed them to a 3-6-1 start. At what point does the team need to find different personnel?
“It's personnel, it's formation,” head coach Sigi Schmid said. “We've talked a lot as a staff. Do we play five in the back, to try and solidify it that way? That eliminates some players in some positions. Do we stay with four?
“We're more defensively aware right now. We've just tried to work on our defensive awareness and our challenges and our toughness in duels at times. So we'll continue to work on that. Obviously, personnel is, at the end of the day, something that you've always got to look at.”
Sheanon Williams, who has played for Philadelphia, Houston and Vancouver, arrived this week for a trial as the Galaxy looks to shore things up at right back. Rolf Feltscher is out until late June or July after tearing a pectoral tendon in training late last month, and Schmid has used Dave Romney and Daniel Steres is his spot and has Emrah Klimenta available, too.
“We're looking at [Williams] for the next couple of weeks,” said Schmid, who also has German-based forward Mario Rodriguez, a Galaxy academy alum, training with the team. “So we'll see.”
To improve defensively, he says, “it's going to take us being more aware. It's going to take us reacting quicker. It's going to take is being stronger in duels. Being harder in tackles and being more aggressive in the right parts of the field.”
LA supporters, who endured a worst-in-MLS campaign last season, are griping, and with good reason.
“Patience is important,” said Schmid, who will be without left back Ashley Cole, his captain, who will serve a yellow-card accumulation suspension. “I know MLS came out with a thing [this week], and I think we've played the second-toughest schedule in the league so far. The last two games [losses in Houston and Dallas] were the games that upset me, because I think those are definitely two games we could have gotten points from. ... When you score four goals in two games on the road, you should get something out of those.
“And the naysayers are correct, in terms of our defending right now isn't good enough. But it will be there. And the object at the end of the day is to make the playoffs. There's a lot of teams who as sixth-place teams have gone to the finals. There are fifth-place teams. So winning the Supporters' Shield is great and it's nice. I don’t know if it's there right now for this group, but getting to the playoffs is definitely there for this group.”
Schmid said the game in Montreal “is the start of the road to the playoffs for us, and we need to get after it, and we need to tighten up defensively, and the communication's got to be there. ... That's something we haven't probably done as well as we need to.”
He said that the Galaxy “still believe in themselves” and need to “continue to stay focused on our work.”
Ibrahimovic thinks subtle advances will make a difference.
“We need to have more confidence, play with confidence,” he said. “For the moment, we need a little bit more luck than normally. ... We don't have the flow of games where we need to have the positive luck on our side. Hopefully, it can change a little bit, but the guys are working hard.
“We all want to win. I think we're on the right way. Don't forget we have 14 or 15 new players in the team, so it's still fresh, it's still new. Once we connect, it will be solid and we will do what we're able to do. But we see every day the potential.”