Over the next seven days, LAGalaxy.com will look back at the seven turning points during the 2012 season that led to the Galaxy winning their second straight MLS Cup championship.
As the LA Galaxy approached the month of July, head coach Bruce Arena outlined a plan to take his club to the postseason—LA would need 27 or 30 points to reach the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Unfortunately for Arena, the Galaxy did not get off to a winning start as LA dropped a 2-1 result to the Philadelphia Union at The Home Depot Center on July 4. That loss, combined with the 4-3 loss at San Jose five days earlier, all but killed any positive momentum that the club had begun to build with their three-game winning streak to start the month of June.
In order to get their season and their playoff aspirations back on track, the Galaxy would need to do so on a three game road trip that included matches against the Chicago Fire, Portland Timbers, and Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
The Galaxy traveled to Chicago shorthanded as David Beckham served the final game of a two match suspension while injuries forced Landon Donovan, Omar Gonzalez and Mike Magee to the bench. With Donovan, Beckham, and Magee unavailable at the start, Robbie Keane took the reins of the offense.
In the 22nd minute, Keane drew a penalty kick and slotted his opportunity past Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson. The Irish forward completed his brace in the 78th minute as Donovan—who entered the game in the 65th minute— stripped the ball from Chris Rolfe and sent the Galaxy on the counter before dishing to Keane, who finished near-post sealing a 2-0 victory.
After returning from Chicago, the Galaxy embarked on their longest single standing road trip of the season as they headed to the Pacific Northwest.
First on the docket were the Timbers and the raucous crowd at JELD-WEN Field, a venue at which the Galaxy were dismantled 3-0 in 2011, who were treated to one of the finest contests of the season. Portland jumped out to an early lead in the 3rd minute, but within a 10 minute span between the 19th and 28th minutes, LA roared back.
The Galaxy’s Designated Player trio fueled LA’s comeback as Beckham tallied a pair of highlight reel goals while Donovan and Keane each added one of their own to take the score to 4-1. Portland would pull one back before halftime, but a Keane goal in the 64th minute put the game out of reach as the Galaxy went on to claim a 5-3 triumph over the Timbers. LA’s victory in Portland also featured the MLS debut of forward Jose Villarreal, who would go on to play a major role in the Galaxy’s next match against Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
With a full house on hand at B.C. Place, Whitecaps FC jumped out to an early two goal lead with strikes from Gershon Koffie and Barry Robson. Vancouver was in control of wide stretches of the match, but in the closing 10 minutes, the Galaxy clawed their way back into the match.
The rally began with Beckham’s sixth goal of the season on a deflected shot that curled past goalkeeper Joe Cannon in the 81st minute. But LA would save the best for last as in the 87th minute, a build-up along the right found Villarreal, who opened his MLS account in style with a laser shot from the top of the area to help the Galaxy earn a 2-2 draw and seven of a possible nine points during the three-game stretch.
Fueled by their emotional three-game road trip, the Galaxy decimated rival Chivas USA 3-1 in the SuperClásico and then, once again without Beckham and Donovan, beat FC Dallas 1-0 on the road to finish the month of July with a 4-1-1 record in the league.
During LA’s mid-summer rise, it was LA’s Designated Player trio of Beckham (three goals and four assists), Donovan (three goals and three assists), and Keane (five goals and four assists) who performed the heavy lifting on the scoresheet. By the end of the month, the DP’s accounted for 11 goals and 11 assists – 68% of LA’s scoring total in July.
As for Arena’s master plan? LA ended the regular season with 34 points in the final four months of the season.
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com