CARSON, Calif. – Since the start of the season, the Los Angeles Galaxy have been atop the table with the best record in MLS.
Since July, however, they have been streaky. With a 5-4-2 record, the club fell off somewhat from the 10-1-3 with which they finished June.
And even though Saturday’s win may have seemed like the definitive end of the club’s summer swoon, Galaxy coach Bruce Arena did not hit the panic button at any point of the season.
“Overall, to date, regardless of what you think, I’m pleased with our team,” Arena said after the Galaxy’s 2-1 win over D.C. United. “I know if we don’t get better, we’re not going to have a chance to win MLS Cup. I understand that completely. But it hasn’t been the worst. It’s been OK to date.”
While several clubs have been hot on the Galaxy’s heels since July, Los Angeles continue to set the bar for the rest of the league in 2010. Saturday’s victory pushed them to the 50-point barrier, already more than any team in the league compiled in 2009.
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“We’ve been in first place for 25 weeks," Arena said. "We’ve been the first team in the league to get 10 points, 20 points, 30 points, 40 points and 50 points. It hasn’t been that bad. We didn’t expect this season to be perfect. And we managed to play 23 of our games without David Beckham, and we’ve dealt with our issues.”
Additionally, the Galaxy became the first team to clinch a playoff spot, reaching the milestone after the weekend’s slate of games.
However, LA's stretch of games this summer gave observers reason to worry over the team’s ability to reach MLS Cup once more. The Galaxy’s once-vaunted defense of March through June is no more. They have allowed 19 goals, the same as FC Dallas, but it is Real Salt Lake who now boast the league’s toughest defense, having given up just 16 goals.
And in their latest win, the Galaxy were unable to control D.C. United throughout the match and needed a late rally in order to put away the team with the league’s worst record.
This stretch of games isn’t a wake-up call to Arena, but he acknowledged that improved play was a necessity.
“We certainly realize we need to get better,” Arena said. “But now we have a team with eight wins at home and seven on the road – we’ve done OK. Every team has had a little bit of a stretch where it hasn’t gone well. You’ve got to be able to deal with that.”
A stretch like the Galaxy had over the summer is merely a character-building opportunity, and if they are to get to where they want to be, the team must rise above all challenges, Arena said.
The character of teams and athletes comes out in these situations," Arena said. “Maybe people in normal life don’t understand that, but it’s the part of sport that’s challenging. When everything’s perfect, anyone can deal under those circumstances.”