Could a return to the back four of 2011 end LA’s defensive woes?

CARSON, Calif. – Last week’s stunning 4-0 defeat to the Seattle Sounders brought up many questions in the LA Galaxy camp, but one rose above all others.

Is it time to reunite the defense of 2011?

Last season, the defense anchored by goalkeeper Josh Saunders, right back Sean Franklin, center backs A.J. DeLaGarza and Omar Gonzalez and left back Todd Dunivant formed one of the fiercest backlines in MLS history.

However, this season, injuries—particularly to Gonzalez and Dunivant—have kept the 2011 group from suiting up together even once in 2012. But with Gonzalez and Dunivant both healthy and an important match against Chivas USA looming this Sunday, head coach Bruce Arena admits that the club is considering tinkering the backline.

“We haven’t had our back four together this year. That’s a long time not to have your back four back,” said Arena after training on Thursday. “It’s made for a lot of tinkering and obviously as we’re getting healthy, we’re able to go with a more consistent group. It’s all part of it, nothing you can do about it.”

Tinkering may be necessary for Arena after a difficult performance against the Sounders. In particular, rookie left back Bryan Gaul and defender David Junior Lopes struggled against a dynamic Seattle attack leading to calls for the a return of the back four of 2011.  

Defensive struggles have become a main talking point this season as the Galaxy have conceded 39 goals in 24 games.  By comparison, LA notched 22 competitive shutouts and allowed just 28 goals in 34 league matches in 2011. During the Galaxy’s run to the MLS Cup, the back four of Franklin-DeLaGarza-Gonzalez-Dunivant was the backline of choice, with the quartet starting 17 matches last season including all four playoff games.

“Obviously, we did well last year so fans are hoping that we can do that again. Whatever way that we go though, we have to do better than in Seattle,” said DeLaGarza. “I’d love to be back with Omar, but wherever Bruce sees me fit to be, I’ll be there, whether that’s in the middle or out right or on the bench, which ever.”

Gonzalez was quick to echo the sentiments of his longtime teammate.

“There has been some chemistry issues, Gaul’s new back there, Lopes is new back there and me and A.J. were the only guys that have played together,” said Gonzalez, who has played with DeLaGarza since their days at the University of Maryland. “Of course, I’d love playing with him. I’ve been saying it for the past three years and even before that I love playing with him. I’d like to see it again.”

With LA embroiled in a heated chase to qualify for the postseason, Gonzalez believes that a return to the back four of 2011 may be enough to stabilize the club’s defense heading into the final months of the season. 

“It’ll be nice to see the old back line together so maybe sometime soon, we’ll be able to see it,” said Gonzalez. “You know if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it; we ended on a high note last year so maybe we should get the back line together.”

Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider