Shell-shocked LA looking to regroup in Puerto Rico

Suddenly leaky defense has Galaxy facing early CCL exit

The last two games have not been kind to the Los Angeles Galaxy.

On Sunday, the club gave up three early goals and lost 3-2 to the Chicago Fire, and that was the game the Galaxy actually had a chance of winning. On July 27, the Galaxy were blitzed 4-1 by USSF D2 side Puerto Rico Islanders in a CONCACAF Champions League match.

While the Galaxy will have to wait until Aug. 14 to atone for their MLS loss, the club can try and make up for its poor showing internationally with a strong showing in Puerto Rico.

The Galaxy will visit the Islanders on Wednesday in the second leg of their preliminary-round series. A four-goal victory over Puerto Rico would send the Galaxy through to the tournament group stage. While that might not seem likely – including a win in Seattle this year, the Galaxy have exactly two four-goal wins since 2008 – the game still has to be played out.

“It’s going to be difficult, but that’s why you play the game,” Berhalter said. “Who would have thought they would have come in [to Home Depot Center] and win 4-1?”

Puerto Rico jumped on the Galaxy early and scored two first-half goals, the first time this year the Galaxy had surrendered two first-half goals before Chicago one-upped Puerto Rico days later.

The result certainly didn't go LA’s way but, if nothing else, the club realized what kind of players D2 teams have and how they operate.

“That’s their staple … they play hard,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “Maybe our fault was we thought we could get through the [first] game without having to compete that way, and we were out-competed in a lot of places and we suffered.”

After a stellar start to the season, the Galaxy’s defense has been shell-shocked since early June. They have zero shutouts in their last seven games in all competitions and enter the match at Puerto Rico having surrendered nine goals in their last three games – all at home.

Getting to the source of the problem and plugging defensive holes is the team’s top priority. Even one goal by Puerto Rico could severely deflate the Galaxy’s spirits.

“Defensively we need to get back to not giving up goals,” Galaxy midfielder Michael Stephens said. “We were loose all over the field. All the goals show that. I think we just need to regroup, tighten up in the back and get back to what got us here.”

More so than tactics, though, the Galaxy need one thing – to believe.

“We have to go in with that hunger and with the belief that we can turn the game around because you can,” Berhalter said. “That’s why you play the game, and you have to give it your best.”