CARSON, Calif. – When Landon Donovan returned from U.S. National Team duties on June 13, he noticed subtle but noteworthy differences on the Galaxy.
The changes had yet to materialize in their won-loss record – the struggling MLS Cup champions were on a two-week break at the time – but there was a decidedly more upbeat atmosphere surrounding the club.
“The day I got back, there was a different mentality and attitude around here,” he said after training Friday as the Galaxy (5-8-2, seventh in the Western Conference) prepared to take on Vancouver Whitecaps FC (7-3-5, third in the West) on Saturday at The Home Depot Center (7:30 p.m., KDOC, KWHY, lagalaxy.com/gamedaylive). “We need to continue that.”
So far, so good as far as the 11-year veteran is concerned. The Galaxy are on a two-game winning streak, starting with last Sunday’s 1-0 victory over the Portland Timbers and continuing with Wednesday’s stirring, come-from-behind 3-2 victory at Real Salt Lake.
“In this league, there’s a very fine line between winning and losing,” Donovan continued. “We’ve been doing things the right way the last few weeks and it’s starting to show up, so we want to keep that going.”
Defender Sean Franklin said had Wednesday’s game, in which the Galaxy trailed 2-0 early in the first half, occurred earlier in the season, things likely would have gotten even uglier. But he then used a word that hasn’t been used much around these parts in describing the stunning win.
“Character,” he said. “Our team hasn’t had the best season starting off, but we knew after the two-week break it was going to be a new season for us. That’s how we took it. Right now we’re 2-0 on our new season and we’ve got to build on that.”
Robbie Keane, who just returned from the European Championships where he played in three games for Ireland, caught the Salt Lake game on television and was impressed as well.
“Full credit to the players the way they came back,” he said. “You can see the winning mentality is back there now, and it’s important that we keep that.”
In the second-year Whitecaps the Galaxy are taking on one of MLS’ biggest surprises. First-year head coach Martin Rennie, who came to Vancouver from the NASL’s Carolina RailHawks – who recently eliminated the Galaxy from the U.S. Open Cup – has a wealth of attacking talent on offer. Former MLS All-Star Sebastien LeToux, who came over from Philadelphia in January, leads the team with four goals while rookie Darren Mattocks and Camilo each have three while Eric Hassli has two and Davide Chiumiento has a team-high five assists. At the other end of the field, the Whitecaps have an MLS-best seven clean sheets. Former Galaxy goalkeeper Joe Cannon, has six of those shutouts and a 1.11 goals-against average on the year behind a consistent defense of Alain Rochat, Jay DeMerit, Martin Bonjour and former Korean international Young-Pyo Lee.
The Galaxy certainly are pleased with their sudden turnaround in a short week (three games in seven games), but by no means are they satisfied.
“We want to continue, keep moving on, show the same character the spirit we’ve shown the last two games and then we’ll be good,” David Beckham said. “Yeah, we’re happy we’ve got six points (this week), but we need to continue.”