Last Saturday's 2-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo not only was a testament to the LA Galaxy's strong defense, which has yet to allow a goal through three games, but also to the team's depth and versatility.
And that's exactly what head coach Bruce Arena has been hoping for.
A classic case in point was Saturday's lineup which featured Sean Franklin, MLS Rookie of the Year as a defender two seasons ago, at right midfield and second-year man A.J. DeLaGarza at right back. If anyone had been concerned whether they could handle the responsibilities, Arena wasn't one of them.
"I thought Sean played well,'' he said. "We've had him in training here a couple of years, and he played there last year, so it was nothing really new. A.J. always does a solid job. He's a good player, and it makes sense to get him on the field whenever we can.''
Holding midfielder Dema Kovalenko also was lost to injury during pregame warm-ups and Chris Birchall, in his second season with the club, stepped in and played well.
"Our depth, if not the best, is one of the best in the league,'' said veteran midfielder Jovan Kirovski, who returned to action after recovering from a strained knee ligament suffered midway through training camp. ``We have a great group. One guy gets hurt and another steps in and does a great job.
"We have a good team, great depth, we're on a good run and we have to keep it going.''
Franklin's appearance at midfield wasn't completely new, although he rarely played there in college and occasionally was a central midfielder at Highland High School in Palmdale. Franklin also had played outside right late in a victory over Chivas USA two weeks ago and saw some action there last season. The 25-year-old said the new position takes some getting used, but he already has two assists.
Arena approached Franklin during training last week and informed him where he was going to be used in the Houston game, and Franklin welcomed the challenge.
"This last game I was a lot more comfortable,'' Franklin said. "I thought I did OK, but there also are a lot of things I want to work on. For the most part I'm pretty comfortable there.''
Franklin said the mind-set from defense to midfield is completely different. Specifically, he has to get used to getting forward more and not being afraid to involve himself in the attack.
"You need a different mentality,'' he said, "and that's what I'm going to work on and get better at. It's something I have to get used to. If I happen to play there a couple more times I'll eventually get comfortable doing that.''
Arena said the Galaxy will continue to tweak its lineup, especially when the heavy part of the schedule kicks in during the summer. He also figures to soon have back Clint Mathis (who has been recovering from knee surgery early in camp), Gregg Berhalter (sore knee) and Eddie Lewis (bruised foot), so his lineup likely will be changing again once those veterans are available.
No problem as far as he's concerned.
"We'll be moving things back around,'' Arena said. ``We're getting players back healthy, and there's going to be changes throughout the year, especially once we get into a very congested schedule. I'm hopeful we will have a number of players we can call on and use in different spots.''