The search for a winning consistency continues for Bruce Arena's Los Angeles Galaxy as they end their month of August with a home date on the 28 against the Kansas City Wizards.
Arena was searching for answers regarding the lack of communication that led to their latest defeat against the San Jose Earthquakes on August 21.
“It bothers me,” Arena said after Monday’s practice at the Home Depot Center. “I think it’s a game where at the worst we leave with a point. That bothers me.
“Gift-wrapping the game, giving away a goal. I don’t want to take any credit away from San Jose, but it’s as bad a goal as we can give up. We helped manufacture a goal for them.”
Defender A.J. De La Garza was also searching for an explanation when asked about the goal scored by the Earthquakes' Chris Wondolowski.
“One mistake cost us and I was a little bit part of that,” De La Garza said. “We dominated that game. That’s what happens to us when we win, we might be the team that gets dominated but we win. That’s what we were doing early in the season, like in Columbus. We won (2-0 on May 29) but they say they dominated.
“It doesn’t matter who dominates, it’s who wins at the end of the day. We didn’t get that victory.”
Others, like midfielder Chris Klein and defender Sean Franklin, joined the inquisition party.
“It’s a game on the road maybe we should have gotten a point out of and maybe we should have won, but we didn’t," Klein said during training. "Those are games we can’t let down; we have to prove we’re going to be a consistent team. On a day when you give up a mistake, you gotta get a draw out of that game.”
“That’s how a lot of our losses have been this year," Franklin added. "We’ve made some kind of mental mistakes and given up goals in the first five minutes. That’s not like our team to do that, and we know that.
“It was a tough one to swallow.”
The holidays won't be for several weeks, so gift-wrapping is a habit they will look to avoid as LA looks to better the scoreless draw they had against the Wizards on April 24 at Community America Ballpark in Kansas City, Kansas.
The Galaxy are still Major League Soccer's best team, with a 13-4-4 record (43 points), while the Kansas City Wizards are on the outside looking in with a 6-9-5 record (23 points).
Edson Buddle's 13 goals and Landon Donovan's 11 assists remain best in Major League Soccer. But the key to Los Angeles winning on Saturday isn't so much a question of offensive production as it is one of defensive communication.
The Galaxy's defensive backline—which has been a topic of major scrutiny this season—must bail goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts out of trouble. With Gregg Berhalter sidelined due to the flu, the return of Todd Dunivant to the lineup will be crucial to preventing the Kansas City forwards from setting the pace and tempo.
Ricketts has a 0.70 goals against average, a 79.7 save percentage and a 13-4-3 record to go with 55 saves and 10 shutouts. A clean sheet on Saturday will give Ricketts a tie for the club record for shutouts in a single season.
The current record is set by current FC Dallas goalkeeper and former G's netminder Kevin Hartman. Hartman currently has a 0.69 GAA this season.
Among the midfielders for Los Angeles, Juninho will be the X-factor for the Galaxy on Saturday. He will need to utilize his field vision to help set up plays for the Buddlevan Connection in Arena's 4-4-2 Diamond system. Michael Stephens and Chris Birchall need to up their production, as they have underperformed the past several weeks—more so for Stephens.
The Galaxy's finishing has been another weakness. The G's will need to complete their offensive sequences and become more fluid with their looks in the front.
As for the Wizards, Kei Kamara and Ryan Smith are two players who will make things tough for the Galaxy defense. Kamara would be on nine goals for the season had his best chance on April 24 gone through.
Kamara currently has eight goals to lead the team this season and will be an important forward to mark. Birahim Diop, Davy Arnaud, Jack Jewsbury, and Teal Bunbury all have two goals each and will look for a breakout performance.
Ryan Smith is the playmaker to keep an eye out for. He has eight assists to lead the team this year and, with the offensive options at his disposal, limiting his ability to spread the ball around will be a priority for the midfielders and back line of LA.
Jimmy Nielsen has a 6-9-5 record in the net, with 60 saves, a 1.15 GAA, and a 72.3 percent save percentage.
The return of Todd Dunivant to the lineup could prove crucial to the chances of the Galaxy on Saturday. Expect the home side to make up for their setback last week, as well as the setback on August 1 at the HDC against the Chicago Fire, who they take on next week.
Los Angeles Galaxy 2, Kansas City Wizards 1
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and will be televised locally by Fox Sports PrimeTicket.
INS & OUTS:
Beckham and Berhalter still taking it easy?
Galaxy midfielder David Beckham continued to train with the side, and while it looked like he would be ready to go for the match against the Chicago Fire on September 4, Arena thought otherwise.
“He’s making progress but he’s got a way to go still,” Arena said. “We’re not ready to think that he can play yet.
"I think every week we just have to follow his progress and see how he’s doing. There’s no way of telling how he’s going to be.”
Defender Gregg Berhalter missed Saturday's game against San Jose due to the flu, and his symptoms will likely carry over to the match against Kansas City.
"I don’t know exactly what it is,” Arena remarked. “I don’t think the doctors know either.
“Nothing has changed since the last time we’ve seen him. He’s ill. We don’t know exactly what it is. That’s the job of the doctors.”
Get well soon, Gregg. After all, as the time-honored adage goes, "Your team needs you."