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. Chelsea 2-2 Barcelona: Good-looking goals to spare in Maryland (video)

    Jul 28, 2015, 10:08 PM EDT

    LANDOVER, MD - JULY 28: Luis Suarez #9 of Barcelona battles with Kurt Zouma #5 of Chelsea in the first half during the International Champions Cup North America at FedExField on July 28, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Close to 80,000 saw Barcelona move to 1-2 in three ICC matches. Barca finishes off its tourney vs. Fiorentina in Florence on Aug. 2.

  2. WATCH: Juking, solo dribble goal by Newcastle’s Haris Vuckic is quite nice

    Jul 28, 2015, 9:16 PM EDT

    NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - JULY 1: Haris Vuckic smiles during the Newcastle United Pre-Season Training session at The Newcastle United Training Centre on July 1, 2015, in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images) Getty Images

    Thank goodness Haris Vuckic’s brother follows his career over the web.

  3. Cavani to sit two games including World Cup qualifier for post-Jara red card

    Jul 28, 2015, 8:43 PM EDT

    SANTIAGO, CHILE - JUNE 24:  Edinson Cavani of Uruguay (L) argues with Gonzalo Jara of Chile (NOT IN FRAME) during the 2015 Copa America Chile quarter final match between Chile and Uruguay at Nacional Stadium on June 24, 2015 in Santiago, Chile. (Photo by Gabriel Rossi/LatinContent/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Cavani will miss Uruguay’s first CONMEBOL qualifier for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Bolivia will benefit.

  4. Mob Museum in Vegas to open FIFA exhibit in September

    Jul 28, 2015, 7:16 PM EDT

    ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - JUNE 03: A policeman stands in front of the FIFA headquarters on June 3, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland. Joseph S. Blatter resigned as president of FIFA. The 79-year-old Swiss official, FIFA president for 17 years said a special congress would be called to elect a successor. (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Something tell us the exhibit won’t bring in the same sort of interest as the actual wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, but it does fit the bill of organized crime.

  5. MLS All Star Game preview: Forecasting the day when the idea is clearly ridiculous

    Jul 28, 2015, 6:11 PM EDT

    COMMERCE CITY, CO - JULY 28:  (L-R) MLS All-Star Graham Zusi of the Sporting Kansas City, Waylon Francis of the Columbus Crew and DaMarcus Beasley of the Houston Dynamo work out during training ahead of the MLS All-Star Game against the Tottenham Hotspur at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on July 28, 2015 in Commerce City, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Graham Zusi; Waylon Francis; DaMarcus Beasley Getty Images

    Here’s hoping MLS makes the idea of this contest laughable in the next decade, if not sooner. Like tomorrow.

  6. Mexico post-Herrera: Few answers, many questions as El Tri moves forward

    Jul 28, 2015, 5:39 PM EDT

    The president of the Mexican Football Federation Decio de Maria Serrano  announces the dismissal of Mexico's national football team coach Miguel Herrera during a press conference on July 28, 2015 in Mexico City.  Mexico's coach Miguel Herrera was sacked on Tuesday following allegations of an assault against a television journalist, just two days after guiding them to their seventh Gold Cup trophy in the United States.  AFP PHOTO/ Yuri CORTEZ        (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Who takes over the ship, one in which the majority of the hands reportedly liked playing for Herrera?

  7. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Everton

    Jul 28, 2015, 4:27 PM EDT

    Everton badge

    Will they hold onto Stones and Coleman? If so, expect Everton to be in the Europa League discussion and to make a healthy bid for both Cups.

  8. Official: Miguel Herrera fired by Mexico days after Gold Cup win, alleged attack on journalist

    Jul 28, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    150728-Herrera Getty Images

    The nation has now changed men’s national team managers 15 times since 2000, and only two of those changes were caretaker moves.

  9. Done deals: Vidal to Bayern Munich, Luis leaves Chelsea for Atletico Madrid, Crespo to Aston Villa

    Jul 28, 2015, 1:59 PM EDT

    Here’s a look at some of the top deals from another busy day across Europe.

  10. FIFA favorite: Michel Platini set to run for presidency

    Jul 28, 2015, 1:05 PM EDT

    Legendary French midfielder is red-hot favorite to replace Blatter.

  11. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Crystal Palace

    Jul 28, 2015, 12:35 PM EDT

    CrystalPalaceLogo

    Can the Eagles surprise everyone again? With Cabaye running the show, don’t rule it out.

  12. Jose Mourinho ranks Chelsea’s Eden Hazard above Cristiano Ronaldo

    Jul 28, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    Eden Hazard AP

    Mourinho: “In my opinion he should be in the top three.”

  13. Raheem Sterling worth $75 million, Manchester City insist

    Jul 28, 2015, 9:54 AM EDT

    FBL-AUS-ENG-ITA-MANCITY-ROMA-CUP FBL-AUS-ENG-ITA-MANCITY-ROMA-CUP

    England international has been ripping it up for City in preseason.

  14. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Chelsea

    Jul 28, 2015, 9:20 AM EDT

    ChelseaLogo

    Mourinho’s men are hungry for trophies. All of them.

  15. ICC preview: Barcelona, Man United, Chelsea, PSG wrap up USA tours this week

    Jul 27, 2015, 9:45 PM EDT

    Diego Costa, Chelsea FC — 2015 International Champions Cup Diego Costa, Chelsea FC — 2015 International Champions Cup

    The Premier League’s big boys each play once more in the USA before heading back to England for the start of the new season.

  16. Stoke City sign ex-Barcelona, PSV winger, free agent Ibrahim Afellay

    Jul 27, 2015, 8:39 PM EDT

    Ibrahim Affelay, FC Barcelona Getty Images

    Afellay makes four ex-Blaugranas on the books at Stoke, where Mark Hughes is aiming for European qualification.

  17. Bundesliga teams are scared of Bayern Munich — It needs to stop, says Mats Hummels

    Jul 27, 2015, 7:56 PM EDT

    Mats Hummels, Borussia Dortmund Mats Hummels, Borussia Dortmund

    As Bayern chase their fourth straight Bundesliga title (it would be a first), Mats Hummels says the league’s other teams need to stop fearing them.

  18. Official: Chelsea legend Didier Drogba announced as Montreal Impact Designated Player

    Jul 27, 2015, 6:06 PM EDT

    Didier Drogba, Chelsea FC & Montreal Impact Didier Drogba, Chelsea FC & Montreal Impact

    Drogba has arrived in MLS, and he even got to choose which team he’ll play for — kinda.

Featured video

Analyzing PL clubs in the transfer window