Skip to content

Simple things fueling LA Galaxy’s big playoff turnaround

Nov 12, 2012, 2:35 AM EST

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. Premier League Power Rankings: Arsenal, Everton rising, Saints falling

    Dec 18, 2014, 3:00 PM EST

    As we head into the busy festive season, here’s how the rankings of power look before Week 17.

  2. Theo Walcott could return for Arsenal at Liverpool this weekend

    Dec 18, 2014, 2:46 PM EST

    Arsenal Training Session Arsenal Training Session

    Winger set to return to full training, may return to action this Sunday at Anfield.

  3. Final rankings of 2014 released by FIFA, as USA climb one place

    Dec 18, 2014, 2:11 PM EST

    Brazil Soccer WCup Belgium US AP

    Germany end 2014 on top, as the USMNT sit steady inside the top 30.

  4. Liverpool’s Mario Balotelli banned, heavily fined by English FA after offensive post

    Dec 18, 2014, 1:26 PM EST

    Balotelli

    Balotelli will now miss Liverpool’s match against Arsenal this weekend.

  5. Robbie Rogers: FIFA “insane” to host World Cups in Russia, Qatar

    Dec 18, 2014, 12:45 PM EST

    Seattle Sounders v Los Angeles Galaxy Seattle Sounders v Los Angeles Galaxy

    Rogers worries about anti-gay laws in Russia, Qatar during World Cup tournaments.

  6. Jurgen Klinsmann’s son, Jonathan, stars for US U-18’s but gets red card vs. Germany

    Dec 18, 2014, 11:10 AM EST

    Source: Action Images Source: Action Images

    Klinsmann’s son make six saves, but gets second-yellow as youth side beat Germany.

  7. Soccer stadium approved in Las Vegas, as MLS expansion talk heats up in Sin City

    Dec 18, 2014, 8:50 AM EST

    City of Las Vegas

    Vegas, baby! New soccer stadium gets seal of approval from city council… all they need know is an MLS expansion franchise.

  8. Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus fined $665,000 for driving without a license

    Dec 18, 2014, 8:19 AM EST

    Germany Press Conference & Training Getty Images

    Reus has been speeding around in his Aston Martin without a license. Gets biggest motoring fine in German history.

  9. Ashley Cole might be returning to the Premier League

    Dec 17, 2014, 11:13 PM EST

    AS Roma v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League

    Could Cole be returning to the Premier League?

  10. Club World Cup Roundup: Real Madrid set to play San Lorenzo in final

    Dec 17, 2014, 8:40 PM EST

    Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale

    Real Madrid cruised past Azul 4-0 and will be the heavy favorites come Saturday.

  11. Report: Houston Dynamo the front-runner to land Erick ‘Cubo’ Torres

    Dec 17, 2014, 8:01 PM EST

    Erick Torres 2

    Huge coup for the Dynamo, if they can pull it off.

  12. China to require every kid to play soccer

    Dec 17, 2014, 6:02 PM EST

    U20 Women China Germany Soccer AP

    China making a big, big play into soccer.

  13. League Cup Semi-Finals: Liverpool vs. Chelsea and Spurs vs. Sheffield United

    Dec 17, 2014, 5:09 PM EST

    Tottenham Hotspur v Newcastle United - Capital One Cup Quarter-Final Getty Images

    Three Premier League sides make the semi-final along with League One’s Sheffield United.

Featured video

Man United thrash Liverpool