Many wondered if the LA Galaxy’s bid for back-to-back MLS Cup titles would come to an end after center back A.J. DeLaGarza’s season came to an end after suffering a knee injury on Sept. 30. The pairing of DeLaGarza and Omar Gonzalez had once again established itself as one of the stingiest in MLS, but now Gonzalez would be paired with a rookie, Tommy Meyer, who would be counted upon to step seamlessly back into the starting lineup, even though he had not appeared in a regular season game in almost five months.
Despite those daunting obstacles, Meyer proved up to the task.
However, many continued to doubt the rookie’s ability to step in until he put in one of his finest performances of the year in LA’s 1-0 defeat of Seattle Sounders FC in the regular season finale.
After stepping in for DeLaGarza after his injury in the 1-1 draw to the Colorado Rapids, Meyer quickly made the starting position his own as appeared to be a far different player than the one who struggled during LA’s early season malaise. Meyer’s evolution began as the young center back racked up minutes in LA’s Reserve League and CONCACAF Champions League campaigns.
Highlights: LA 1, SEA 0
In the season finale, there was little to be gained for LA as they were already locked into a Knockout Round contest against Vancouver Whitecaps FC just days later. But there was plenty on the line for the Sounders, who were seeking to clinch the Western Conference’s second overall seed with a victory against LA.
Boasting a number of attacking options including Fredy Montero, Eddie Johnson, and a load of confidence after their 4-0 drubbing of the Galaxy the last time that the two clubs met in August, Seattle entered the match as favorites to pull ahead of Real Salt Lake for the second spot in the West. However, the Galaxy backline led by Meyer and Omar Gonzalez put an end to Seattle’s aspirations.
Meyer slotted into the starting XI three days after LA’s transcontinental trip 3,000 miles away in El Salvador which culminated in his 90 minute appearance in the Galaxy’s 3-2 win over Isidro Metapán. Matched up against the mercurial Montero, the rookie stifled the Colombian attacker time and time again as his physicality proved too much for the forward.
Magee on LA's 1-0 win vs SEA
Seattle’s attack completely shut down, LA grabbed a late goal from Mike Magee, to claim an impressive 1-0 victory in front of a capacity crowd at The Home Depot Center. By the end of the night, Meyer had his share in the glory by leading the team with eight clearances while making four interceptions.
With the victory, Meyer received an added shot of confidence that served him well ahead of the playoffs. Once in the postseason, Meyer came into his own even more by starting all six of LA’s MLS Cup Playoff matches, but his finest performance came in LA’s 3-1 Western Conference Semifinal second leg victory over the San Jose Earthquakes.
During that second leg, Meyer negated San Jose’s talented forwards Chris Wondolowski and Steven Lenhart before contributing to the offense in his own right with a through-ball that set in motion Robbie Keane’s second goal of the evening. Following the match, Galaxy captain Landon Donovan boldly declared that Meyer had “become a man” on the Buck Shaw Stadium field.
Ahead of the start of the 2013 season, Meyer is expected to be in a battle with DeLaGarza for the starting center back position alongside Gonzalez.
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com