CARSON, Calif. — With CONCACAF Champions League and a crowded league calendar, the LA Galaxy’s stretch run was always going to be difficult.
With Gregg Berhalter’s potentially long-term injury now in the mix, things on the backline go from difficult to ominous. Galaxy defenders, though, are not panicking.
“Guys are going to have to step up, be leaders because Gregg is a vocal guy,” Galaxy left back Todd Dunivant said. “As a group, we can all step up and pitch in more.”
Omar Gonzalez and A.J. DeLaGarza will likely carry the bulk of the responsibility. Sean Franklin can play central defense and with Frankie Hejduk in the mix at right back, there is still an option for a rotation of sorts.
Berhalter played 90 minutes in six of the eight league games he played in since making his return from injury in June. He was a steadying force in central defense, and his presence allowed Galaxy coach Bruce Arena to try other lineups. Franklin saw time at right midfield with DeLaGarza slotting in at right back, which gave the side an offensive boost without costing the defense.
Now, though, the focus is to sort out the central defense.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who can also step in,” DeLaGarza said. “Three months left in the season and hopefully we can do well in CONCACAF and make it to MLS Cup final. We’ve got a lot of games ahead of us. Bruce is harping on having a lot of guys ready from the reserve team also.”
The Galaxy will now begin a demanding stretch. Monday’s match at Sporting KC (6 pm ET/ 3 pm PT, Fox Soccer) will be the first of nine games the Galaxy will play in a 30-day stretch that will include trips to Morelia, Mexico, and Alajuela, Costa Rica, for Champions League matches.
“It will be a bit of a test because we have a lot of games coming up and our defense is relatively thin, but we also have guys in the waiting that are going to get a chance,” Dunivant said. “I think you’ll see Kyle Davies at some point, even Dan Keat can step in there even though he’s played a lot more center mid. We do have options. It’s tough losing Gregg, but we’re going to have to have guys step up.”