CARSON, Calif. – Winning back-to-back championships is not easy, and as five-time MLS Cup champions, the LA Galaxy know that all too well.
The LA Galaxy may be the only team to win five MLS Cups, but historically the reigning champions have endured a difficult start to the season the following year.
But why have the Galaxy made a habit of starting slowly?
“I don’t know,” Galaxy head coach and general manager Bruce Arena said with a shrug. “We’re not too worried about it.”
In each of the five seasons following a title, the Galaxy have only once accrued a points total higher than seven—back in 2013—while enduring starts of less than that mark each other year. However, in all but two of those seasons, the Galaxy have qualified for the postseason and looked primed for a challenge for a title.
This season, a plethora of issues ranging from international call-ups and injuries to inconsistent play from star players has caused the Galaxy to slump to their lowest points total after a title since 2003 when the Galaxy fell to a 0-2-3 start.
But despite that comparison, the team that experienced a similar post-championship hangover is the 2012 LA Galaxy.
After a dominant season en route to a Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup double the year before, the 2012 side stumbled out of the gate with a 2-3-0 record.
Much like in 2015, a long postseason resulted in a shortened preseason in 2012 in which players reported for duty just about a month after winning MLS Cup.
Despite boasting the likes of David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, the Galaxy began the season with a poor run that included disappointing defeats at the hands of Real Salt Lake, the New England Revolution and Sporting Kansas City. Whereas road woes have been a common theme for the Galaxy this season, in 2012, LA failed to hold serve at home as they dropped their first three matches at StubHub Center.
However, the Galaxy recovered their form as the team went on an impressive 10-3-4 record to end the season. In the postseason their early season malaise was long forgotten as the Galaxy made a typically barnstorming run to their fourth title.
Like in 2012, the Galaxy feel that their veteran presence is what will help resurrect their season, and again put them on track toward a title.
“To be honest, we’re one of those teams that have veteran players and last year, we started off [poorly]. It’s a long season. We’re going to move and strive forward,” Gyasi Zardes said. “I feel okay about the team coming together and as we move forward, we can get more wins.”
Ultimately, it’ll be up to how the Galaxy can come together—and how quickly—that will determine if they’ll follow in the footsteps of the 2012 team and challenge for another MLS Cup title.
“We know that we’re not good enough right now, simply all the way around. We can’t wait to the second half of the season to pick up points,” said defender A.J. DeLaGarza. “We have to start doing so now. We just have to get the points now. We can’t wait anymore. We have to act. It’s that simple.”
As dire as the situation may seem now, the Galaxy aren’t too worried about their form.
“It seems to happen to us a lot at the start of the season,” LA captain Robbie Keane says. “We start off very, very slow and then end up kicking on and then winning it, hopefully that will be the case again.”