CARSON, Calif. – The Los Angeles Galaxy have been a force throughout much of the 2010 Major League Soccer season, but they’re far from perfect.
In fact, their biggest weakness came to light again last Saturday, when San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski pounced on an early scoring chance that was enough for the Earthquakes to earn a 1-0 win over LA at Buck Shaw Stadium.
It’s not a fad. While the Galaxy hold an immaculate 13-0-0 record when they score first, they’re effectively dead in the water (0-4-1) when they can’t find the scoring trough before their opponents do.
“Unfortunately in the games we have been scored on first we haven’t won but we know that we’re right there,” Galaxy defender Sean Franklin said. “This past week we had a lot of chances. The whole game I thought our team played well. … With a better mentality the next time, just sharpen up on a few things and finish our opportunities, we win that game probably 3-0.”
Not until the fourth game of the season did the Galaxy concede a goal, and it was not until June 5 that the Galaxy let in their third goal of the campaign.
Teams then did not have a chance to figure out the Galaxy’s riddle until teams actually started scoring on them. The first time the Galaxy fell behind in a game – on June 9 against Real Salt Lake – they lost. Except for a July 22 game against San Jose, every time the Galaxy gave up the game’s first goal, the Galaxy lost.
Throw in games against the Puerto Rico Islanders (CONCACAF Champions League) and the Seattle Sounders (in US Open Cup) and LA have yielded the game’s first goal seven times and have lost six of those games.
“That’s what puts us at kind of behind the eight-ball,” Galaxy midfielder Chris Klein said. “The way we play, teams have to come out and get us. If they don’t we wear them down and eventually can get them.
"San Jose gets that early goal and they can sit back a little bit and are able to absorb the game. It makes a big difference, us getting on the board first and conversely not giving up that first goal.”
When opponents score first against the Galaxy, Klein said the opposing team begins thinking about protecting their lead.
“You are playing against us, a team that’s at the top of the league and you get the goal and you think ‘OK, let’s hold on and win the game,’” Klein said. “I think it makes it that much more important for us, to be very tight defensively early and as the game wears on we’re going to get our chances.”
Still, not all are convinced the statistic means something.
“It’s a low-scoring sport,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “If you score first, the percentages of winning are much greater. My guess is that teams that score first win most of the time. It’s not basketball. It doesn’t matter if you score first in basketball, but I think in soccer, it’s important.”