MLS WEEK 12: Break 'won't hurt' streaking Galaxy
June, 9, 2010
By Scott French | ESPNLosAngeles.com
A win or draw Wednesday night at Real Salt Lake would send the Galaxy into Major League Soccer's 16-day World Cup break unbeaten in 13 games, the longest such streak to start a season in league history.
The Galaxy has been dominant, outscoring foes, 22-3, and getting shutouts in nine of 12 matches regardless of who's on the field. The club's biggest stars are at the World Cup -- and that includes injured David Beckham, who is on England coach Fabio Capello's staff -- but somebody new seems to step up with every game. Twenty-two of 24 players on the roster have started games.
Even when L.A. doesn't play particularly well, as in the game at Columbus a week and a half ago, it comes away with wins.
Is this, for the Galaxy, the best time to take a break?
“It won't hurt us -- put it that way,” says center back Gregg Berhalter, the Galaxy's defensive leader. “We'll get some guys back to full fitness, and we'll be able to kind of exhale a little and relax a bit. Because we have had a tough schedule so far. We've been getting great results, and we've worked extremely hard, so I think the break will do us some good.”
After the MLS Cup final rematch at Real Salt Lake, L.A. will be off the field until June 26, when it visits Toronto FC. The next home game is the annual Fourth of July party, against Seattle this year, and that could be homecoming for World Cup attackers Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle.
The first Galaxy team, back in 1996, set the record for longest unbeaten streak to start an MLS season, going 12-0 in an era in which ties were decided in shootouts (with two of the wins in shootouts), and Kansas City matched it with a 10-0-2 start in 2000. The Galaxy reached the MLS Cup final, losing to D.C. United in 1996; K.C. won the league championship in 2000.
The Galaxy's regular-season unbeaten streak is 15 games, four shy of the Columbus Crew's mark set in 2004-05. And the Galaxy's overall MLS streak is 19 games, because the MLS Cup loss last November to Real Salt Lake, since it was decided on penalty kicks, goes into the books officially as a draw.
How big do these streaks weigh on Galaxy players' minds?
“We haven't mentioned it once,” head coach Bruce Arena says. “To be honest, we don't worry about that stuff.”
This weekend's slate (all times PDT):
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 9
Colorado Rapids (6-3-1, 19 points) at Chicago Fire (3-3-4, 13 points), Toyota Park (Bridgeview, Ill.), 6 p.m., MLS Direct Kick
The surprising Rapids have won three in a row, all 1-0 decisions -- goals, in order, by Mehdi Ballouchy, Conor Casey and Drew Moor -- and that kind of consistency is laudable, especially at the back. Colorado has allowed just seven goals, the second-best mark in MLS, and none since Alan Gordon's winner for the Galaxy back on May 5, a stretch of 339 minutes. The offensive numbers are troublesome: only 11 goals, and only expansion Philly is averaging fewer per game. Conor Casey and Omar Cummings are supposedly one of the league's best tandems, but target man Casey has just one goal from the run of play and speedy Cummings has scored twice, although the service they're provided is part of the problem. Losing midfield leader Pablo Mastroeni, red-carded last weekend against Columbus, won't help. Chicago on Saturday won its first game since April 24 but did so by packing it in at the back, at home, against an expansion team. The Fire has enough creative talent to do more.
Los Angeles Galaxy (10-0-2, 32 points) at Real Salt Lake (6-3-2, 20 points), Rio Tinto Stadium (Sandy, Utah), 6 p.m., FSN West (delayed, 10:30 p.m.)
The first rematch of last year's MLS Cup final, back in mid-April, went the Galaxy's way, on two goals by -- who else -- Edson Buddle. He and Landon Donovan are in South Africa for the World Cup, but heroes keep stepping up. Van Nuys teen Tristan Bowen has scored in the past three games (including the friendly with Boca Juniors), Jovan Kirovski had a pair in Saturday's rout of Houston, and rookie Michael Stephens has been the perfect complement for the goalscorers. RSL also is missing two influential players, midfield anchor Kyle Beckerman (foot injury) and forward Robbie Findley (at the World Cup), but that hasn't slowed down the Utahns much. They're unbeaten in their last six games (a scoreless draw at D.C. United on Saturday ended their five-game winning streak) and have maybe the best forward in the league over the last five weeks, Alvaro Saborio (5 goals, 4 assists). And they haven't lost at Rio Tinto in 18 games (16 league games), since May 16, 2009.
THURSDAY, JUNE 10
Philadelphia Union (2-6-1, 7 points) at Kansas City Wizards (2-5-3, 9 points), CommunityAmerica Ballpark (Kansas City, Kan.), 5 p.m., MLS Direct Kick
Remember when the Wizards looked like they might be in the top-tier of MLS clubs this season? Seems like eons ago: They've not won in nine games, all competitions, and they'd have three straight losses (and five in six games) if not for Danish goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, who stopped two sure goals in the 0-0 draw Saturday at Toronto, one of them with his face. The Union are still finding themselves, as expansion teams not named the Fire (in 1998) or Sounders (last year) are wont to do. Philly has just one win in its last eight games, at Houston, and more success might arrive if rookie Danny Mwanga gets more time. He's come off the bench to score stoppage-time goals in the last three games, and his chemistry with French forward Sebastian Le Toux is pretty good.
D.C. United (2-8-1, 7 points) at Seattle Sounders (4-5-3, 15 points), Qwest Field (Seattle), 7 p.m., ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes
MLS's worst side takes on the league's most disappointing team, but both are feeling pretty good at the moment. D.C. followed its win over Chivas USA by having more of the game in a 0-0 draw (in hot, harsh conditions) with mighty Real Salt Lake. Goals are still hard to come by -- United has been shut out in five of its last seven league games -- but a burgeoning star has emerged in electric 17-year-old winger Andy Najar. The Sounders have two shutout wins in their last four games after going winless in their previous four, and three goals against New England (and what goals!) are a big plus for a club that hadn't scored more than one since April 22. Seattle, on paper, is one of MLS's best teams; can they prove that on the field more consistently?