Skip to content

Simple things fueling LA Galaxy’s big playoff turnaround

Nov 12, 2012, 2:35 AM EDT

Seattle Sounders v Los Angeles Galaxy - Western Conference Championship - Leg 1 Getty Images

CARSON, Calif. — It turns out one week is an eternity in Major League Soccer. As the sole evidence of this highly scientific observation, we present the LA Galaxy.

One week ago, the defending MLS champions were walking off the carved up green of Home Depot Center having failed to take advantage of home field. They were on their way to Santa Clara carrying a 1-0 deficit after late errors gifted the Earthquakes’ Victor Bernardez the series-opening goal. One website (author’s note: this one) previewed the second leg by saying, “it’s hard to see a way through here for the Galaxy.” It wasn’t a controversial prediction.

But something happened on LA’s way to the offseason. They woke up. Bruce Arena’s team scored three first half goals in Santa Clara and sent the Supporters’ Shield winners packing. Add in Sunday’s 3-0 drubbing of the higher-seeded Seattle Sounders, and the Galaxy are back to their championship-prowling selves.

So what happened? How did the Galaxy go from near-extinction to stream rolling some of the league’s best teams?

“I think we needed a kick up the backside, and probably [the San Jose loss] was it,” David Beckham said, thinking back to the team’s mindset after last Sunday’s loss.

“Before the San Jose game away, our movement and our fitness maybe wasn’t as good,” Beckham conceded. “But I think we’ve picked it up. We realized to go all the way in this competition, we have to pick it up … We’ve brought out standards higher.”

For defender Todd Dunivant, Bernardez’s goal was almost a blessing – a wakeup call. Combined with San Jose’s passive posture to start the first leg in Santa Clara, the deficit gave LA license to jump on the front foot.

“[Bernardez's goal] kind of propelled us,” Dunivant said.”It changes the whole mindset of the series. San Jose suddenly goes in not as aggressive. Maybe they’re just trying to protect the lead and not lose the game, and now we’re the aggressors.”

According to Dunivant, that posture has changed from the sluggish, lackluster side that gave up as many goals as they scored in their first two playoff games. Over their last two matches, LA has outscored their opponents 6-1.

“We’ve been aggressive, and we’ve taken our chances when they’re there,” Dunivant said. “We sensed the opportunity tonight.”

The biggest example of that has been Los Angeles’s suddenly unstoppable counter attack. On Wednesday, Tommy Meyer set Landon Donovan lose on San Jose, the Galaxy captain hitting Robbie Keane for the series’ winning goal. Against Seattle, it was Keane’s turn to orchestrate, feeding Sean Franklin behind the defense, LA’s right back setting up Mike Magee for the night’s second goal.

“Quick movement and quick counter attack and transitions,” Keane cites, asked to explain LA’s turnaround. “We have clever players in the team that could cause any team problems … If we keep the ball, keep it moving quickly, we’re a very hard team to play against.”

The quick movements, the sharp decisions on the ball – they weren’t there before Los Angeles departed for San Jose. Whatever the reason – fatigue, lack of focus, the need for a kick up the backside – Los Angeles was not playing like MLS champions. But with their back against the wall at Buck Shaw Stadium, things changed.

“When you play quite a few games in a short space of time, you become a little bit stale, a little bit tired,” Beckham explained. “We had that in the first game against San Jose. We’d come off a tough game against Vancouver, scraped through in that one, then [came] up against a San Jose team that was very strong.

“I think we recovered a lot better than [San Jose]. I said it that day after the game … Leading into the second one, we were ready … Our confidence was up, and it showed … It showed in this game as well.”

There haven’t been any tactical revelations. There’s been no shakeup to the lineup, no emotional pleas from the coaching staff or captain. Chalk it up to whatever you want – aggression, movement, a wakeup call – LA’s just playing better. They’re playing harder. They’re executing.

Sometimes, the most obvious answer is the right one.

“There’s never any secrets,” head coach Bruce Arena quips, asked to explain his team’s turnaround. “I’d like to tell you that we have a lot of [secrets] and we pulled them out for this. Just playing well and obviously scoring goals and being a lot more solid defensively. Just overall, we’re playing better.”

And as Bruce Arena sees it, LA’s only getting better:

“The 90 (minutes) in San Jose was good, and tonight was more complete. I think we were a little sloppy in the last 15 minutes in San Jose. Tonight was better, so that’s encouraging.”

Latest Posts
  1. NWSL Digest: Reign, Flash flying as we move past Week 1

    Apr 17, 2014, 12:24 AM EDT

    vicky_losada

    Week one of the NWSL season sees Seattle atop of the league, but an import from Spain snagged her own headlines for Western New York.

  2. Henry, Sam goals see New York break into the win column

    Apr 16, 2014, 10:22 PM EDT

    Thierry Henry 4

    It took six-and-a-half weeks, but last year’s Supporters’ Shield winners have their first victory of the season.

  3. WATCH: All the goals, highlights from the Premier League’s mid-week matches

    Apr 16, 2014, 9:40 PM EDT

    arsenal AP

    Three matches the shoot up the title, Champions League races:

  4. Ranking the candidates for MLS’s next expansion team (after Atlanta’s Wednesday announcement)

    Apr 16, 2014, 8:57 PM EDT

    MLS Logo

    One location is the clear favor for No. 24, but down to one slot, the competition could pick up.

  5. With Agüero, Negredo removed, should we point the finger at Pellegrini?

    Apr 16, 2014, 7:57 PM EDT

    manuel_pellegrini Getty Images

    Like his players, City’s boss has plenty of questions to answer after Wednesday’s disappointment.

  6. Atlanta, MLS don’t need to quiet doubts to be successful in the Southeast

    Apr 16, 2014, 6:52 PM EDT

    Arthur Blank AP

    If Atlanta, Miami aren’t good sports towns, it may not matter. The doubts critics have cast on the league’s Southeast excursion may be irrelevant.

  7. Real Madrid beat Barcelona to win Copa del Rey, as Bale’s brilliance seals it

    Apr 16, 2014, 5:40 PM EDT

    Gareth Bale AP

    Real win Copa del Rey as Barcelona’s bad run continues:

  8. It’s official: Atlanta gets Major League Soccer’s 22nd franchise

    Apr 16, 2014, 5:26 PM EDT

    Arthur Blank AP

    One more spot in MLS’s planned expansion is gone, with Atlanta set to begin play in 2017.

  9. Manchester City 2-2 Sunderland: Two Wickham goals, late Nasri equalizer leave sides even (video)

    Apr 16, 2014, 4:52 PM EDT

    connor_wickham Getty Images

    Two late goals gave Sunderland a lead, one City pulled back just before full-time.

  10. Everton 2-3 Crystal Palace: Toffees’ top four hopes take huge hit

    Apr 16, 2014, 4:51 PM EDT

    Everton v Crystal Palace - Premier League Getty Images

    Eagles soar to safety, but Everton’s Champions League dreams are in ruins:

  11. Fernando Llorente: Carlos Tévez and I deserve to go to the World Cup

    Apr 16, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT

    Italy Soccer Serie A AP

    Two of Serie A’s most productive scorers may not be at this summer’s World Cup. Llorente wonders why.

  12. WATCH: Premier League Player of the Week – Week 34

    Apr 16, 2014, 2:56 PM EDT

    Philippe Coutinho, Steven Gerrard AP

    Which Liverpool player picked up the Player of the Week accolade?

  13. Watch Live: Manchester City vs. Sunderland (Lineups and Discuss)

    Apr 16, 2014, 2:44 PM EDT

    sergio_aguero Getty Images

    Both sides look to cash in on matches in hand at the Etihad.

  14. Watch Live: Everton vs. Crystal Palace (Lineups and Discuss)

    Apr 16, 2014, 2:25 PM EDT

    Everton v Aston Villa - Premier League Getty Images

    Can Tim Howard and the Toffees win their eighth-straight game? Watch live online, right here:

  15. Ahead of Atlanta’s expected MLS entry, are NFL stadium shares the way to go?

    Apr 16, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    Source: AtlantaFalcons.com Source: AtlantaFalcons.com

    Having MLS teams share their home with NFL sides could be a smart move ahead of the next wave of expansion:

  16. WATCH: Premier League Team of the Week – Week 34

    Apr 16, 2014, 1:28 PM EDT

    Liverpool's defense still looked leaky, but a mistake from Kompany saved them. AP

    Find out who made the PL Team of the Week, right here:

  17. Premier League Preview: Man City host Sunderland, Everton face Palace

    Apr 16, 2014, 12:35 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Two PL matches take place on Wednesday, with both set to impact the top and bottom of the standings:

  18. NBC to air all 10 Premier League games on final day in “Championship Sunday” extravaganza

    Apr 16, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT

    nbcsports_new

    Watch all 10 PL games across 10 different channels on final day of the season. All the details, right here:

Featured video

PST Extra: Race for the PL title