Every team goes through poor stretches, and the Galaxy is in the middle of theirs. Sunday's 3-2 loss to Chicago at Home Depot Center was L.A.'s second in six days and fourth since July 7, all competitions included.
What went wrong Sunday … and what went right.
DEFENSE: The Galaxy defense, and especially their backline, was caught out of position as the Fire scored goals 69 seconds apart to take a 2-0 lead by the fifth minute.
Chicago forward Collins John discarded double-coverage on the first goal, sending a ball into space for Baggio Husidic to poke onto the path of Marco Pappa, who beat goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts one-on-one.
Then the Fire caught L.A.'s backline pushed much too far forward, opening space with two quick, simple passes at midfield and sending John in on goal with Patrick Nyarko's through ball. John beat Ricketts at the near post.
On Mike Banner's 19th-minute strike, Husidic's ball across the top of the box should have been handled by Donovan. Instead, it went past him to Pappa, and Ricketts' save on his shot left a rebound for Banner to finish.
L.A. surrendered only four shots. Three of them found the net.
“There's not a team in the league you can spot three goals and expect to win the game or get a point …,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “Really, from the technical part of the game in the early minutes, we failed. Defensively, we made a bunch of errors.”
The Galaxy is 12-3-4 and lead MLS's Western Conference by six points over Real Salt Lake, but they've won just once in their past six games, all competitions, and surrendered 14 goals in those games. L.A. had 14 shutouts in its first 18 games, friendlies included.
“It's uncharacteristic stuff that we're seeing right now,” said Gregg Berhalter, the Galaxy's backline leader. “We have to look at it and get in the right positions, and just address the first 10 minutes of games.”
OFFENSE: The Galaxy should have been ahead in the first 90 minutes, but Edson Buddle's one-on-one attempt -- after a nifty little move by Tristan Bowen, who dribbled past one defender and split two more with a pass -- was kick-saved by Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson, making his MLS debut.
Once ahead by three goals, the Fire were content to sit back and defend (and after Pappa and Nyarko departed, they had no choice), and the second half was played almost exclusively between the midfield stripe and Chicago's goal. The Galaxy got nothing from it.
Both L.A. goals came from Landon Donovan penalty kicks, the first after Nyarko dragged down Todd Dunivant late in the first half, the second after Alex Cazumba went down (a tad too easy, it seemed) from Dasan Robinson's embrace with a little more than 10 minutes to play.
For all their command, the Galaxy created few clear-cut chances until Donovan made it 3-2 in the 81st minute. Then, boom-boom, Buddle fires wide in the 84th and Alan Gordon's header is parried by a diving Johnson. Another chance came in stoppage, with a free kick on the right wing, right at the edge of the box. Omar Gonzalez nodded Donovan's cross wide.
It wasn't good enough.
“Over the last 60 minutes or so,” Arena said, “it wasn't bad, but, again, our technical execution was poor. We should've been scoring goals out of the run of play. We could have scored five goals today. So we failed on both ends of the field, no doubt about it.”