CARSON, Calif. — Since the Los Angeles Galaxy began to lose their grip on a once-suffocating defense, opposing clubs have slowly figured out how to solve them.
The latest tack? Grab the lead quickly.
“We’ve given up way too many early goals this year,” Galaxy midfielder Chris Klein said after Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Kansas City. “What that does to us is it ends up making us chase the game and allowing teams to sit in and counter against us.”
For Klein and the Galaxy, “this year” essentially began in July. After all, LA allowed all of five goals from the start of the season through June. In that 14-game stretch, the Galaxy did not allow many goals at all—early, late or in between.
But with July came the end of defensive dominance in league play as Seattle, New England and D.C. United scored goals on the Galaxy in succession. However, none of those goals came in the first half of their respective games.
That ended soon enough. First, it was San Jose, who struck a second-minute goal in a 2-2 draw on July 22. Then Chicago scored in the fourth, fifth and 20th minutes in a 3-2 loss on Aug. 1.
A 1-0 win, reminiscent of their March-through-June efforts, followed on Aug. 14 in New York, but San Jose and Kansas City netted early goals on Aug. 21 and on Saturday, respectively. The Quakes scored in the sixth minute of a 1-0 Galaxy loss while Kansas City scored 12 minutes in and won 2-0.
Thus, Los Angeles have allowed six first-half goals in their last five games, and all have come in the first 20 minutes.
“A lot of it’s coming from the midfield, we’re up and they’re breaking on us and it’s some freak play in behind,” Todd Dunivant said. “It’s not like [opponents] are getting in behind and breaking us down so we need to adjust to that. It is the common theme.”
Giving up early goals is never good, but it’s especially problematic for the Galaxy, who now have an 0-5-1 record when giving up the first goal. Compare that to their 13-0-0 record in matches they have scored first, and the importance of the first goal becomes vitally evident.
“It’s more indicative of our style of play and when we go down early and we have to chase the game and chase the game and chase the game, it allows teams to sit in and be tight against us,” Klein said. “Usually teams have to come out and spread themselves out and that’s when we can catch them. When you give up that early goal you’re not able to do that.”
Still, Landon Donovan said it’s tough for any MLS team to come from behind.
“In this league, it’s hard to chase any game because we don’t have enough talented players,” he said. “There aren’t enough talented players around the league to do the things to make plays when the other team has 10 guys behind the ball.
"When you see Chelsea or Man U or Arsenal or Barcelona play, they have enough quality players where they can play against 10 guys behind the ball and still create really good chances. That’s always going to be hard for us. We need to get back to the things we’re good at and if we do that, we’ll win.”