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. Sepp Blatter’s championing of women’s soccer leaves Megan Rapinoe unimpressed

    Jul 4, 2015, 12:07 PM EDT

    Rapinoe Getty Images

    Popularity of women’s soccer has improved greatly the past few years, but there’s still much work to be done, and the US international isn’t happy with FIFAs parading of accomplishments.

  2. Report: Robin van Persie agrees to personal terms with Fenerbahce

    Jul 4, 2015, 10:50 AM EDT

    VanPersie Getty Images

    With the Dutchman set to turn 32 before the start of the league season, Manchester United may look to cash in on his star power after a down year.

  3. Galatasaray officially unveils Lukas Podolski on a permanent transfer from Arsenal

    Jul 4, 2015, 10:22 AM EDT

    Podolski Getty Images

    The German international didn’t get a first-team guarantee from Arsene Wenger, so he moved on.

  4. Shaqiri proving a wanted man with Atletico Madrid and Spurs joining the mix

    Jul 4, 2015, 9:47 AM EDT

    Shaqiri Getty Images

    Stoke had an offer accepted by Inter, but two more clubs are reportedly in the mix for the Swiss international.

  5. Copa America Final preview: Argentina looks for first title since 1993 against hosts Chile

    Jul 4, 2015, 8:31 AM EDT

    Aguero Getty Images

    Argentina looks to end a 22-year continental trophy drought against the hosts who have never won the Copa America.

  6. MLS Snapshot: Seattle Sounders 1-0 DC United

    Jul 4, 2015, 1:15 AM EDT

    Marco Pappa AP

    Tyrone Mears scored an absolute beauty late in the match to down a ten-man D.C. United.

  7. Klinsmann on USMNT’s win over Guatemala: “I’m not happy with that performance”

    Jul 4, 2015, 12:08 AM EDT

    FBL-FRIENDLY-2016-NED-USA Getty Images

    Despite leaving Nashville with a 4-0 win, Jurgen Klinsmann was far from pleased with how the United States played.

  8. MLS Snapshot: Houston Dynamo 1-1 Chicago Fire

    Jul 3, 2015, 11:32 PM EDT

    Chicago Fire v Houston Dynamo Getty Images

    Substitutes scored the goals for each side, as the Fire leave Houston with a point.

  9. 2011 Women’s World Cup final loss still burns in Abby Wambach’s memory

    Jul 3, 2015, 11:00 PM EDT

    MONTREAL, QC - JUNE 30:  Abby Wambach #20 of the United States reacts before taking on Germany in the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Semi-Final Match at Olympic Stadium on June 30, 2015 in Montreal, Canada.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Wambach gets a second chance in a World Cup final against Japan again on Sunday.

  10. USMNT player ratings: How Klinsmann’s men fared against Guatemala

    Jul 3, 2015, 10:45 PM EDT

    Guatemala v United States Getty Images

    Seventeen players saw action in the USMNT’s 4-0 over Guatemala. See who helped (or hurt) their standing heading into the Gold Cup.

  11. Rampone, other US veterans met with Ellis at midway point of Women’s World Cup

    Jul 3, 2015, 10:10 PM EDT

    during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Group D match between Nigeria and USA at BC Place Stadium on June 16, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada. Getty Images

    The U.S. turned things around mid-tournament and now finds itself in the World Cup final.

  12. Peru 2-0 Paraguay: Carillo volley gives Peru third place in Copa America

    Jul 3, 2015, 9:35 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptm0mmvlntm2nza3owm2njdizti5m2uyzwixztfinjiy AP

    For the second straight Copa America tournament, Peru has left with a third place finish.

  13. USA 4-0 Guatemala: USMNT cruises into Gold Cup with win in Nashville

    Jul 3, 2015, 9:01 PM EDT

    Fabian Johnson, Ruben Morales, Carlos Castrillo AP

    Three second half goals led to an easy win for the USMNT, as the Gold Cup is now just four days away.

  14. Turkey time: Nani to Fenerbahce, Podolski set for Galatasaray move

    Jul 3, 2015, 8:21 PM EDT

    Nani AP

    Deemed as excess talent by their Premier League clubs, Nani and Lukas Podolski are headed to the Turkish Super Lig.

  15. QPR reject $18 million Leicester City bid for Charlie Austin

    Jul 3, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT

    Queens Park Rangers v West Ham United - Premier League Getty Images

    With Queens Park Rangers relegated to the Championship, the club wants to get top dollar for star striker Charlie Austin.

  16. FOLLOW LIVE — Copa America: Peru and Paraguay clash for third place

    Jul 3, 2015, 6:34 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwe1ytrimtq3yjfiy2i0n2q5mtyyowm1nwe5ngq5ztfj AP

    Pride is on the line as Peru and Paraguay look to take home third place at the 2015 Copa America.

  17. Nicolas Anelka named manager of Indian side Mumbai City FC

    Jul 3, 2015, 5:40 PM EDT

    KUWAIT-FRANCE-ANELKA-ISLAM-YOUTH-CONFERENCE Getty Images

    Anelka now a manager? Oh how times have changed…

  18. World players’ union FIFPro opens door to women for first time in 50-year history

    Jul 3, 2015, 4:45 PM EDT

    Theo van Seggelen of Fifpro during the International friendly match between Netherlands and Spain on March 31, 2015 at the Amsterdam Arena in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images) Getty Images

    Women’s players can get representation from FIFPro for the first time in the continued fight for equality.

Featured video

PST Extra: Done deals & transfer gossip