LOS ANGELES -- Last season you could make the argument that the Galaxy were the greatest team in MLS history, after they won the Supporters' Shield and the MLS Cup.
This season, they’ve struggled just to become playoff eligible despite returning most of their roster, still headlined by the likes of David Beckham, Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan.
So what’s the problem?
AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke said it’s natural for a championship team to have a “hangover” the next season, but Beckham, who has won a title or two during his career, didn’t buy that excuse.
“Tim actually said that to me the other day,” Beckham said Monday during 710 ESPN's “Lunch with a Legend” event. “Any team that has a slow start has a hangover. I said, ‘Personally, I’ve never had that in the past with teams I’ve played for.’ With us, we came back and weren’t focused, simply as that.”
It seemed unfathomable in the offseason that the Galaxy could lose their focus given the way players and front-office officials were talking. After winning the MLS Cup, they were all talking about building a dynasty and becoming the best professional soccer team in North American history. So how could they find themselves out of the playoff race a few months later?
“I don’t know,” Beckham said. “Maybe we got too lazy. We ate too much in the offseason. L.A. weather and the beach. ... But we weren’t focused as a team. It had nothing to do with the management. The management is great and the staff we have is great.”
While Beckham didn’t want to blame management, Leiweke did admit he may have taken last season’s success for granted when establishing the team’s goals before the season.
“At the beginning of last year we did sit down and had a conversation with the team about here’s what we need to do this year, let’s all get on the same page, this is what we expect,” Leiweke said. “We didn’t have that conversation this year, maybe we should have. The thing about this team is I knew eventually they’d figure it out. If you look at that locker room, I’ll compare the leadership we have in the locker room of the Galaxy to any other sports team. From a character standpoint this is one of the deepest groups of players, I’ve ever seen.”
The Galaxy have turned it around as of late, winning their last three games, including a 3-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday. They are now in fifth place in the Western Conference.
“We’ve got a great locker room,” Beckham said. “That’s one thing I’m very proud of, to be part of a team that’s as together as we are. That’s why it was hard to accept the way we were playing in the first half of the season. Like I said before, it had nothing to do with the management, staff, Tim, no one; it was literally the players weren’t performing on the field. In the last three games we’ve performed and we’re back up there. Things can turn around in this league very quickly and I think we’ve done that in the last week with three big wins.”