CARSON, Calif. – When the Los Angeles Galaxy got off to their scintillating start in the 2010 season, it was tough for the momentum to stop.
Similarly, now that the club has hit a slump, it’s tough to change up that momentum as well.
“I wish there was a simple answer,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “If there was, we’d have figured it out. We’re doing our best to get back to basic things again.”[inline_node:317246]
After jetting out to an 11-1-3 start, the Galaxy’s road to the MLS Cup Playoffs has gotten considerably bumpier. The Galaxy are mired in a 2-4-1 skid and have lost consecutive games for the first time this season.
The roster has not changed much (no key player was added or jettisoned away from the team), injuries and suspensions have not been any more prevalent now than they were at the start of the year, and international duty hasn't stolen away key players since the World Cup ended.
Yet problems that were non-existent early in the year are crippling the team now: early goals, playing from behind, an inability to win at home.
The onus for change is on all the players, and that change must happen soon.
“We have to figure out who we are and what we’re all about and if we can do that we’ll have a chance,” defender Todd Dunivant said. “If not, and we continue getting through these games like this, we’re not going to win the championship – and that’s obviously our goal this year.”
In some ways, though, the Galaxy’s immense advantage may have led to their summer swoon. The Galaxy were far and away the league’s best team through the early part of July, and it was not until a draw against San Jose near the end of that month that their issues became more than minor.
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“There’s a natural tendency in sports when you get a big lead to take your foot off the gas a bit,” Donovan said. “We’re certainly at fault for that. But now, we’re right in the thick of it.
"Now, that doesn’t mean we’re not going to be in the playoffs, it doesn’t mean that we’re still not going to have a good year, but if we’re going to be as good as we can be, we need to be a lot better.”
Whether it’s complacency or an increased effort from opponents, LA’s problems have snowballed. Early goals have hampered the club this year, and players have been unable to mount many comebacks as the Galaxy are 0-5-1 when giving up the game’s first goal.
A year ago, though, one of the Galaxy’s strengths was coming from behind. They didn't mount a come-from-behind win but built up a strong mentality by overcoming deficits, compiling an 0-6-7 record when giving up the first goal. Dunivant said this year’s team would do well to get some of their 2009 bite back.
“We haven’t responded well enough," he said. "I think that’s something we did very well last year, coming back. Especially in a lot of the early results, we were coming back and getting draws, fighting and scrapping. Our mentality has to change a little bit. We have to be more of a scrappy team. We have to be more of blue-collar team.”
Ultimately, though, Dunivant said the club’s skid could be the product of an implosion.
“Maybe we’ve listened to too much of the hype about being in first place and gotten a little complacent and thought maybe we could change our style of play or whatever,” he said. “All that feeds into your mentality and you’re seeing the results and it’s not good.”