I shared three questions with the GREAT Josie Becker of LAG Confidential ahead of tonight's big Western Conference showdown.
1. LA had a nightmare start to 2012, winning just one of their first six games in all competitions. What happened at the start of the year to cause this?
So there's this competition, you may have heard of, called CONCACAF Champions League. Essentially, as it stands now, it's a giant suck on MLS team's available energy and talent. It's one thing in the group stages when a team is in form, but to have to begin the season with four matches in two weeks? It took some very specific planning which Bruce Arena hasn't had to do in his three years with the Galaxy.
His plan was to start the same guys every match and hope everything worked out. It was a bad plan. This was a team that hadn't had a full squad practice all offseason. So derailment wasn't the most difficult task. Just look at Toronto FC, their season still hasn't recovered from that crazy start.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, as long as CCL season runs concurrent with the Mexican League schedule and not MLS, the tournament will simply drain MLS teams without giving anything back. Unless, of course, an MLS team is willing to torpedo their early season and go all in on the tournament.
Last season, LA allowed just 28 goals in 34 games, this year it’s already 10 goals allowed in 6 MLS games. Is Omar Gonzalez really that important to this team or is it just an early season anomaly that will work itself out?
I'm gonna answer these questions like jazz cause I feel they're all connected. When the Galaxy were making offseason plans, they included Omar Gonzalez. He gets hurt right before the draft, and there simply isn't enough time to repair the damage. Cause it's not just Gonzalez, the team also has a quite capable center back in Leonardo who was expected back in April-May. So that's two roster spots taken by starting 11 quality defenders, and in a pinch they were replaced by a late draft pick and a player no one was going after. Shockingly, it tore up the back line and it took them a while to work everything out.
The match in Kansas City was the first sign things were turning around. Holding SKC to one goal on the road showed a ton of potential. The team has looked much better since, and David Junior Lopes has added a physicality to the back line which has really inspired his teammates. And that penalty at the end of the Colorado game was horse manure, Lopes never touched the guy.
The Galaxy have won two games in a row including a gritty win at Colorado last weekend, what has been the key to the turnaround?
Defensive unity, defensive physicality were two big keys to the Galaxy getting the goals allowed binge under control. It also took an adjustment up from. Landon Donovan has scored in both of those matches, and both times it was from a Robbie Keane assist. One of the things I wish Bruce Arena would try is David Beckham and Juninho in the middle, Marcelo Sarvas and Mike Magee on the wings, and Landon Donovan up top with Robbie Keane. Edson Buddle, goodness me, just doesn't seem to be up to the caliber of striker that Keane needs to play inspired. Too often Buddle makes the same run Keane makes which does no one any good. Donovan and Keane seem to be developing a report, but then that means the other striker up top is just there for looks.
Anyhow, that's what's looked better out there, players are developing relationships. David Beckham is looking spry again. Josh Saunders has his confidence back in a big way. It's exciting times.
Bonus: We all know Beckham, Donovan and Keane but give the Dallas fans a name to watch out for on the Galaxy that they may not know
So much of this Galaxy team is returning from last year, so hopefully the names are familiar. David Junior Lopes, whom the Galaxy just acquired from Chivas, is someone you'll enjoy watching. He's very active in the back, and will be key in keeping Dallas from getting high percentage chances.
Going to do things a little differently this time and direct you over to LAG Confidential for my answers to her questions