CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy currently sit in last place in the Western Conference, a position that they have not held since June 16, 2012, but as poor as the season has gone, with a few different bounces of the ball, their year could be going much differently.
Ahead of the LA Galaxy’s match with FC Dallas on Wednesday, head coach Bruce Arena offered a bold but understandable claim about the team’s performance in the 2014 season.
"I think we should be undefeated," Arena said. "I'm not saying all wins, but we shouldn't have any marks in the loss column. We've actually played much better than our record indicates, but that's nobody's fault but our own.
"I'll leave it at that. We have plenty of time to demonstrate that we're a team that belongs at the top of the table, not at the bottom."
In conversations with reporters throughout the week, Arena reiterated that the Galaxy’s actual record should in fact be a healthy 5-0-3, but breakdowns at pivotal moments proved decisive in the LA defeats.
But is Arena’s claim valid? Let’s take a look at the Galaxy’s three defeats and the moment that the tide turned away from LA’s favor.
LA GALAXY 0-1 REAL SALT LAKE: MARCH 8 AT STUBHUB CENTER
In their MLS regular season opener, the LA Galaxy came up against the same Real Salt Lake side that ended their quest for three straight MLS Cup titles in 2013, but in the end they were undone by a defensive lapse and a missed penalty. The Galaxy enjoyed numerous attempts to break the scoreless tie, but it was RSL who struck first blood in the 80th minute when diminutive striker Joao Plata found a seam in the LA defense and scored the go-ahead goal. LA looked set to earn a point after Rob Friend earned a penalty kick in stoppage time, but Robbie Keane’s effort was saved by Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando to seal the win for the visitors.
COLORADO RAPIDS 1-0 LA GALAXY: MAY 3 AT DICK’S SPORTING GOODS PARK
History repeated itself in LA’s defeat to the Colorado Rapids in May as the Galaxy controlled the early stages, but were resigned to zero points by lackluster finishing and a defensive miscue. Just minutes after Stefan Ishizaki had a chance cleared off the line by the Rapids, Colorado made the Galaxy pay for their wastefulness when Vicente Sanchez launched a cross that sailed into the LA net for the lone goal of the evening. Despite falling behind, it appeared that Rob Friend would be the hero once again when he earned a penalty in the 61st minute but yet again, Robbie Keane was unable to find the back of the net as he blasted his attempt wide, effectively ending LA’s hopes of a victory.
HOUSTON DYNAMO 1-0 LA GALAXY: MAY 17 AT BBVA COMPASS STADIUM
In last Saturday’s defeat to the Houston Dynamo, the Galaxy controlled the run of play for long stretches and had the better of the scoring opportunities, but they were again unable to find the back of the net. Although the Galaxy defense had enjoyed a strong match, in the 61st minute, miscommunication on a throw-in involving Dan Gargan and Jaime Penedo led to a turnover in the penalty area that was recovered by Houston, setting up an easy finish by Dynamo midfielder Giles Barnes. LA could not recover as the team fell into last place in the West.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN?
If the Galaxy could have earned nine extra points, the team would find themselves with a total of 18 points and the third place position in the Western Conference ahead of Wednesday’s match against FC Dallas.
Although the Galaxy have shown an ability to bounce back from early season struggles to qualify for the postseason and contend for MLS Cups in the past, Keane is quick to point out that the time to learn is now or else LA’s season could end far earlier than they ever expected.
"We just can’t make mistakes, the mistakes we’ve made are ones that can’t be made, and it’s fairly simple,” said Keane. “If you keep making mistakes like that, you can forget about even making the playoffs."