CARSON, Calif. – The final score might not indicate as such, but the LA Galaxy had its share of positive developments in Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to Club Tijuana in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.
One was the play of Canadian international Rob Friend, whose physical prowess provided a much-needed spark to the attack. But it was the presence of veteran left back Todd Dunivant, making his first appearance of the season, who brought a sense of calm to a back line that had been ravaged for three first-half goals.
The 33-year-old, now in his 12th season in MLS, came in as a halftime substitute for James Riley and it wasn’t surprising to see Dunivant contribute to calming the so-called waters and help the Galaxy make a game out of what initially appeared to be an embarrassing loss.
“I felt good,” Dunivant said after training Thursday as the Galaxy prepared to resume MLS play on Saturday in Sandy, Utah against Real Salt Lake. “I played a little bit more on the attacking end, almost like a midfielder. I have today and tomorrow to recover and get ready for Saturday.”
Right back A.J. DeLaGarza said Dunivant’s presence on the field – Dunivant has been out for an extended period of time because of a strained left hamstring – definitely made a difference in Tijuana.
“You saw his leadership,” he said. “For a guy who hasn’t been in much at all, he was kind of playing a new spot, higher up on the left side, and I think he looked comfortable.
“Hopefully we can get him some more minutes and get him back on the field.”
Dunivant said the Galaxy, which rallied in the second half, was more like the team fans can expect to see as the season goes on.
“The second half was a lot better,” he said. “We finally started to play. We started to tackle and started to play more aggressive. We played a little smarter getting the ball up to Rob and playing the ball off of him. It made a big difference.
“We were real disappointed with how we started. We were in a position to win that game at the end… win the series, I guess. It’s not something that’s going to devastate our team. We really wanted to do well in this tournament, but it’s not going to ruin our season.
“We kind of aired out everything that needed to be aired out and we’re looking forward to Salt Lake.”
And Dunivant, naturally, is eager to return to the field for full-time duty. He said one thing he tried to do with his latest injury was not try to push his recovery.
But there was no sense in trying to hide his anxiety.
“They’re always frustrating,” he said. “You’ve got to listen to your body and come back when you’re ready to come back. I pushed as hard as I could and got back as soon as I can.
“There’s nothing you can do sometimes. You just have to let time heal things.”