CARSON, Calif. – Since early July, when the rest of Major League Soccer began to figure out the Los Angeles Galaxy, the cracks that surfaced were dismissed as minor issues which didn't necessarily reflect the big picture.
Galaxy players and coaches said they gift-wrapped victories to other teams, pointed to their own missed scoring chances as reasons for losses and took comfort in their position in the table.
After Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Kansas City, the team was forced to face reality and saw what is been evident to the rest of the league: Table-topping LA are in a slump.
WATCH HIGHLIGHTS: LA 0, Kansas City 2
“Obviously the results the last two weeks are not good,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “You can term it however you wish. I won’t dispute history.”
The Galaxy started the season with an incredible run, reaching June without losing a game. Before the Galaxy tasted defeat, the club had allowed just three goals while compiling a 10-0-2 record.
It’s a whole new world now for Los Angeles. Since July 10, the Galaxy are 2-4-1 in league play and have been outscored 11-7 in those games. Throw in a US Open Cup loss to Seattle on July 7 and a 5-3 total-goals loss to Puerto Rico Islanders in CONCACAF Champions League play and the Galaxy have dug quite a hole.
“It’s a wake-up call for us,” said defender Todd Dunivant after Saturday's game. “We have to pick it back up. It’s been a good couple of months now where it’s really been a slump. The fact that we are still in first place is a testament of how good our start was.”
LA's overall record is still quite strong. The Galaxy lead the league in wins (13) and points (43). However, teams have chipped away at their other lofty stats. Real Salt Lake have yielded the same amount of goals as the Galaxy (13-5-4) with 16 and have a better goal-differential (plus-20 to plus-16). Both RSL (four) and FC Dallas (two) have fewer losses.
Still, that only goes so far.
“We can’t rely on that for the rest of the year,” Dunivant said. “That’s not going to take us through. It’s the hot team that wins in the playoffs. We saw that last year and we see that every year. We have to get it right at the right time and the only silver lining is that the slump is happening now and not at the end of the year.”
For the Galaxy, “now” began in earnest on July 10. New England beat the Galaxy 2-0 in a game LA players deemed as ugly and wrote off as an isolated incident – Landon Donovan, after all, did not play in the game.
A 4-1 Champions League rout by Puerto Rico on July 27 was written off as a night of fantastic finishing by Puerto Rico while a 3-2 loss to Chicago was chalked up to a mixture of poor defending and missed scoring chances by the Galaxy.
San Jose’s 1-0 win over the Galaxy on Aug. 14 could have been the wake-up call the Galaxy needed, but Arena called that three points “gift-wrapped” for the Earthquakes.
There was no gift-wrapping Saturday as Arena and players unanimously admitted that Kansas City outplayed the Galaxy.
“We’re struggling,” Landon Donovan admitted. “We’ve gotten away from what we’re good at. Part of it has to do with being at the top of the table and relaxing a little bit. We put a lot into the first half of the season to get where we we’re at.”
The Galaxy have eight games left before the MLS Cup playoffs begin, time enough for the Galaxy to sort through their issues – or sink further into the hole they’ve created.
“In terms of the playoffs and all that, we’ve got to get things right,” Dunivant said. “It’s not good to go through something like this but if you are going to go through it, this is a good time. I guess that’s the only bright side you could look at.”