BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Something is not right with the LA Galaxy right now.
The frequency of the goals has dried up, and the defense has holes in a number of different places. The teams LA has lost to over the past weeks (San Jose and Kansas City) are teams that they should be able to handle, taking at least a point, if not three from one, or better yet, both of the matches. But, the bottom line is that LA did not perform in either of these games, and consequently is in danger of losing its stronghold on the West, and in the process losing three straight games. That is not good.
From a broadcasting perspective, the part that has been the toughest to digest is the goals the team has given up in the early part of matches lately. Watching from the booth, I feel like I am seeing things unfold in slow motion. I want to shout at the guys to get to the ball or clear it away, really anything besides what they are doing or about to do.
It is a helpless feeling, and one I imagine the Galaxy coaching staff is feeling right now too. The lone goal against San Jose was a communication breakdown that you might see at the high school level, and then this past week against Kansas City it was pure lack of effort. Chris Birchall and Omar Gonzalez pretty much let Davy Arnaud run into the area and receive the ball, before pushing it home past Donovan Ricketts.
One thing that has become crystal clear over these past two games is that Gregg Berhalter needs to get back onto the field and soon to lock this defense back down.
Following a sluggish start to the MLS season under new head coach Carlos de los Cobos, the Fire has started to finalize its roster with the additions of Freddie Ljungberg and Nery Castillo in recent weeks. Although neither player has made big time impacts for Chicago yet, I get the sense that these are the players the Fire expects to push the team onto the next level in the months to come.
In addition, a veteran striker like Brian McBride can never be questioned when given a chance to finish around the area, and the recent return of the talented John Thorrington to the lineup has to be a huge boost for Chicago as well. I have always liked Thorrington’s game, and serious Galaxy fans will remember that he was the player that buried the goal a few years ago to kill the Galaxy’s chances of making it to the postseason on the final day of the 2007 season.
It is amazing to look at the Galaxy and say that this is one of the best teams in MLS statistically, yet they have been just awful in the first 15 minutes of matches this season, specifically the last month and half. The intensity coming into games just has to be better.
Landon Donovan said this past week that LA has not been able to match the energy level of their opponent in recent weeks, and then the team comes out and lays an egg against Kansas City. Bruce Arena has to be pulling his hair out over it all. I know I have seen a few extra strands go down the drain in recent weeks. It has nothing to do with physical talent, or tactical play. It is purely lack of mental strength from the opening whistle in my opinion, and that has to be a focus for the game in Chicago this week.
Because I broadcast not only at the local level for the Galaxy broadcasts, but also on a national level for Fox Soccer Channel, I feel like I get a pretty good pulse on what the rest of the league is thinking about the club. I can tell you right now, that thought is that this Galaxy team is very beatable, and has some huge holes in the armor. This is quite a contrast to what people were saying about this team during the first half of the season.
A win on Saturday afternoon could go a long way toward altering those view points and getting them back to where they were in the opening months of the year. And more importantly, get the team back on track for a late season surge to cement their standing at the top of the MLS table.
I know that we saw a great group of supporters for the game in San Jose two weeks ago, and rumor has it there will be more that 1,000 Galaxy fans at Toyota Park on Saturday. For those that make that journey from various parts of the country, if you have the opportunity to say hello, please do. There is nothing sweeter than seeing one of our own out on the road…
I know that I made mention of it last week, but I think it needs to be said again. Landon Donovan needs to grab the game by the neck and take charge like the captain he is. He can be the best player on the filed on Saturday, and at the end of the 90 minutes, I want to be able to look into the camera and say Donovan took control of this game, because LA needed him to do it. The challenge has been issued…
For as great as Omar Gonzalez was in his rookie season with the Galaxy, and even during the first 15 games this year, he has fallen hard in the last few weeks. Bad giveaways at the back, poor starting positions, and a lack of focus that has led to goals have me wondering where Omar’s game is right now. A solid performance this week against a talented Fire offense will do a lot to restore things…
Finally, there will be fans that say I am overreacting to all of these recent struggles for LA. After all, this team still does have the best record in MLS coming into this weekend’s action. To that I respond in the words of Janet Jackson, “what have you done for me lately?” If LA limps into the postseason and gets knocked out early, no one will remember how well this team started the year, and just how amazing the run the Galaxy went on to open the season really was. All people will think about is how poor the team played down the stretch, and how much LA underachieved with a roster full of great players. A roster that was built to win now. We don’t want that to happen now do we?