Three games, three shutouts, nine points.
For the Los Angeles Galaxy, things have been fairly straightforward this season as the Western Conference champions’ 2010 campaign has gotten off to a picture-perfect start.
While the nine points from three games is impressive, how the club has gone about doing so has also raised eyebrows. Only three other times in league history has a team started the season out with at least three shutouts.
And even though the club features the hottest striker in the league, attacking is not first on the team’s mindset entering games.
“We’ve just been going out there and having a good time, just trying to stay connected and try to play defense first and worry about the offense second,” Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez said.
With Gonzalez and Leonardo teaming together, the Galaxy’s central defense has been rock-solid. Outside backs Todd Dunivant, Sean Franklin and A.J. DeLaGarza have also filled in admirably in the back, providing goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts with ample support.
However, Gonzalez was quick to point out that the Galaxy’s strong defensive effort was due to more than just the back four and ‘keeper.
“The whole team has been great, not just the back four,” Gonzalez said. “Everyone has been involved in these shutouts and it’s been a really good team defense.”
Often times during games, Landon Donovan has tracked back to mark players. The midfield has seen three different looks to start games, but whether it’s been Dema Kovalenko, Chris Birchall or Juninho playing directly in front of the defenders, opposing offenses haven't had much time or space to shoot.
Houston had a scant few opportunities while Chivas USA didn't threaten the Galaxy goal much at all. In fact, it was New England who put the most pressure on the Galaxy’s back line, but was unable to break through. In their two subsequent games, the Revs have won games by 2-0 and 4-1.
A cohesive unit, a product of the continuity the club has enjoyed from last season to now, has paved the way for early success.
“Everyone’s been working for the same goal," Gonzalez said. "Landon always comes up to me before games and says, ‘Let’s get this win. Let’s get this shutout. Let’s just keep it going.’ I relay that message to the other guys, so we’ve all been on the same page.”
Up next for the Galaxy is Real Salt Lake, who will visit Home Depot Center on Saturday. RSL feature several dangerous players, including newcomer Álvaro Saborío, a longtime standout with the Costa Rican national team.
Ex-Galaxy forward Robbie Findley and Fabián Espíndola are also in the mix, but RSL’s Javier Morales might not be able to play due to a groin injury.
For Gonzalez, the task of keeping RSL off the score sheet is twofold. First, it would help the Galaxy pick up another victory, another shutout and another three points. But also, a victory would help bring a small bit of retribution for what happened last November, when RSL beat the Galaxy in MLS Cup ’09 on penalty kicks.
“It’s a new year," said Gonzalez, "so we definitely want to beat them to just prove that we’re a better team.”