CARSON, Calif. – It was with more than a little curiosity that LA Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts followed head coach Bruce Arena’s offseason machinations.
Arena brought in nine new players to a team that finished the regular season atop the Western Conference for the second year in a row and earned last year’s Supporters’ Shield for having the best record in MLS. Arena, for example, acquired four midfielders and three forwards, including former New York Red Bulls standout Juan Pablo Angel.
But one area he didn’t tinker with much was a defense that allowed only 26 goals, second-fewest in the league behind Real Salt Lake.
With the exception of adding long-time Columbus Crew captain Frankie Hejduk and Supplemental Draft pick Ryan Thomas, the core of the defense remained intact.
Ricketts said he would have understood if Arena wanted to make adjustments to that area as well.
“It’s his job to get things right,” Ricketts said. “It’s our job to do them right on the field.”
Manning the back line for another year are likes of veteran central defender Gregg Berhalter, who turns 38 in August and is doubling as an assistant coach this season; former Rookie of the Year award winners Sean Franklin and Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza, Leonardo and Todd Dunivant.
Behind them is, of course, Ricketts, the Jamaican international who finished third among MLS goalkeepers in 2010 with an 18-7-4 record, a club-record 12 shutouts and 0.90 goals against average.
Dunivant said he was relieved to see the defense stay pretty much the same, even though the Galaxy went through a considerable makeover at forward and midfield.
“You never know with that stuff,” he said. “You come out every day and do your job, and we did that last year. We came in every day and put in our work and throughout the year we were the best team in the league."
“We’ve had a very good defense the last two years. Last year it was one of the best all-time in the history of the league, and that tells you something. We had a good group, a deep group. Adding somebody like Frankie just adds more depth to us. We drafted Ryan Thomas, and we got another bit of depth there. I think our defense got a little better actually in the offseason.
“If we can build on that,” he went on, “we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”
Ricketts agreed the Galaxy’s defense was good, but not as good as he would have liked.
“Obviously not good enough … we didn’t win (the title),” he said. “But I think it was a good defense. Hopefully we can build on what we had, be even more compact than what we had and keep working hard.
"Individually we have good players, and hopefully we can jell again as a team.
“If we can stick together and play as a team, there is no telling what we can do. We can’t think about what we did but what we have to do.
“Hopefully we can do it again.”