CARSON, Calif. – For the first three months of the season, the Los Angeles Galaxy featured an impenetrable defense.
While Edson Buddle captured attention by filling the nets, it was the defense that stymied opponents and catapulted the Galaxy to the top of the league table.
Somewhere along the way, though, bricks began to fall out of the wall that was the league’s best defense, and entering Sunday’s game against Chicago, players are trying to re-capture the defensive magic that was lost over the last six games.
“You hear all this stuff about the best defense and the best defense, and maybe you start believing it,” Galaxy defender Gregg Berhalter said. “And once you start believing it, you’re in trouble.”
The Galaxy’s latest defensive setback was a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Puerto Rico Islanders. The CONCACAF Champions League Preliminary Round match Tuesday at Home Depot Center was the sixth consecutive match in which the Galaxy failed to pick up a shutout. Puerto Rico, though, helped the Galaxy set new, undesirable firsts this year. The Islanders are the first team to score two first-half goals, the first team to score four goals on the Galaxy and the first team to beat the Galaxy by at least three goals.
“We’ll give a lot of credit to them, but we also have to look at ourselves and say that it clearly was not good enough,” Berhalter said. “It was just a nightmare.”
While the Galaxy’s hopes of reaching the CONCACAF Champions League are on life support, the club’s standing in league is still rather strong, as the Galaxy had a nine-point lead on second-place Real Salt Lake heading into this weekend’s slate of games.
Other clubs aren’t making up much ground on LA, but opponents are starting to find holes in the Galaxy’s defense. One possible solution, Berhalter said, was for the Galaxy to get back to the basics.
“You always need to work. You always need to want to improve and want to get better and that’s where we’re at right now,” he said. “We have to go back to the drawing board and [figure out] what got us here, what made us successful, and then start finding some of that again.”
The Galaxy would do well to avoid feeling satisfied with their work on the field and watch their huge lead evaporate, Berhalter said. That may be the biggest and perhaps only positive to come out of the loss to Puerto Rico.
“I think we’ve gotten a bit complacent,” he said, “but it was a crazy game. I think we came out with focus, we were trying to move the ball quickly, trying to get a breakthrough. We give up that goal, again on a set piece, which has been our nemesis lately. I think [the loss against Puerto Rico] could be used as a wake-up call."