Galaxy Defense Continues to Grow in 2010

LA Defense Stymies Revolution Attack in Season Opening Win


Photo Credit: 
Victor Decolongon

The LA
Galaxy held the New England Revolution to only one shot on goal in last
Saturday's 1-0 victory at The Home Depot Center in a continuation of a defense
that developed into one of the stingiest in MLS last season.

Not even a new presence on
the back line disrupted the group's effectiveness. Leonardo, taking the place
of injured central defender Gregg Berhalter, who is out with a sore left knee,
went the full 90 minutes and played as if he's been there for years. Leonardo,
one of three Brazilians to join the Galaxy on a full-season loan from Sao Paulo, turned 22 in
February but quickly has impressed teammates with his presence and savvy.

“He's got a lot of grit,
he's a very hard defender who's young and athletic,” said left back Todd
Dunivant, who had another Brazilian, Alex Cazumba, playing in front of him in
Saturday's game. “Leo has stepped in and done an absolutely fantastic job. He's
a guy you want next to you because he's going to battle. He's going to fight and
cover for you.

“With him and Omar back
there it makes our jobs easier on the outside. We can get forward a little more
and help out on the attack as well.”

The slightly altered back
four actually wasn't completely new. Head coach Bruce Arena had been experimenting
with a number of combinations throughout the preseason and Leonardo got more
than his share of playing time. If there was one concern on Saturday it was the
language barrier. Leonardo and his fellow Brazilians understand little, if any,
English except for basic terms like “front, drop, left and right.” Their new
teammates, in turn, know only snippets of Portugese.

“Just the bad words,”
goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts said with a grin.

“If he hears them (Leonardo)
knows he's doing something wrong.”

Ricketts more than likely
didn't have to use them Saturday. He made only one save and only rarely did the
Revolution mount anything close to resembling a threat toward the Galaxy net.

“I'm not surprised. Maybe
Bruce is a prophet,” Ricketts said. “That's the way it should be. I've done
what, 10 years of work? Let me chill, relax.''

Omar Gonzalez, last year's
MLS Rookie of the Year and Leonardo's partner in central defense in last
Saturday's regular season opener, said the game plan against the Revolution was
to keep things as simple as possible. He had played alongside Leonardo on a few
occasions during preseason and thought they had meshed well. But that was
preseason, when results were meaningless.

Gonzalez said he had only
one concern Saturday.

“I was a little worried
about the language thing,” he said. “But we're playing soccer and we both know
the game very well. I think it's just a matter of understanding those barriers
and trying to see things a little earlier and put out fires before they happen.

“We started off a little
slowly in the second half with some balls being played over our heads, but
we've been working on that in practice to make it better.”

The same foursome likely
will start in Thursday's SuperClasico against Chivas USA, and Dunivant is confident the
quartet will be solid again. The veteran defender said the foursome's solid
debut is a reflection of the improved depth on this year's squad.

“We have a lot of guys that
are going to have to step up this year,” he said. “You see that every year ...
the successful teams are the ones where everyone contributes. You can't rely on
just 11 or 12 guys to get you through
the season.

”You really need a deep
bench and guys who can contribute. If we're going to be successful this year in
as many competitions that we're in, we're going to need a lot of guys to play a
lot of minutes.”