CARSON, Calif. – In 2008, the Los Angeles Galaxy had a spectacular offense, leading the league in goals with 55 and providing entertainment in nearly every game.
But that team finished 13th out of 14 teams in the overall league standings, as their potent attack couldn’t make up for a leaky defense.
Since then, however, the emphasis has been on defending. Last season, the Galaxy’s attack was strong but not among the top three highest-scoring teams. The defense, though, was solid as only two teams allowed fewer goals.
The defensive philosophy has not changed in 2010. With the second fewest goals allowed during the regular season, Los Angeles are hopeful their defense can carry the day once more on Sunday.
“That’s what won us this series, the way the defense, the back four have played,” Galaxy midfielder David Beckham said after knocking out the Seattle Sounders. “We’ve got young players in the back … and they’ve played exceptional in these games.”
With an unsorted back line down the stretch, LA suffered. The club had just two shutouts from July on in league play. An injury to Gregg Berhalter cost the team one of its most experienced and key players, but by season’s end, A.J. DeLaGarza had settled into the central defensive role left in Berhalter's absence.
But in LA's first 14 games of the 2010 campaign, they recorded 10 shutouts.
“We’re finishing how we started – strong defensively,” Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts said. “If you want to win a championship you have to be strong defensively.”
DeLaGarza and Omar Gonzalez have paired in central defense the first two playoff games with Sean Franklin and Eddie Lewis out on the flank. The quartet did not play once together during the regular season, but injury to Todd Dunivant forced the inclusion of Lewis and things have worked out despite the move.
Aside from an organized back four, both Beckham and Landon Donovan have dropped back to defend and have helped the Galaxy stay compact and keep opposing players from finding too much room to maneuver in.
If you're surprised to see an international superstar like Beckham – a player renowned for his flair on offense – drop back, don't be.
“I did it when I was 18, 19 years old at Manchester United," he said. "There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be doing it here. Me and Landon have worked hard in these two games and you’ve seen the success we’ve had. If we defend well, we know we’ve got the power to break teams down.”