Galaxy Hitting Their Stride At Perfect Time For MLS Cup Run
On one hand, it’s not at all surprising.
They’re the defending Major League Soccer champions, and they have three of the league’s most high profile players in David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane.
On the other hand, given how tumultuous this season has been, their success is rather stunning.
Injuries, in addition to off-field distractions in the form of keeper Josh Saunders' struggles with substance abuse and rumors of Donovan’s possible retirement at years' end, took their toll on the team.
Following a loss against Houston on May 26, the Galaxy found themselves with a 3-8-2 record to start the season, and a huge hole to climb out of.
Since then, the Galaxy have charged back, going 11-3-2 and in doing so have found their way back into third place in the Western Conference Standings and aiming for the top seed.
For one, Keane has been the consistent threat the Galaxy had hoped he would be when they signed him last season, with 12 goals to lead the team, including one on Friday.
“Robbie’s been real good,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. “Besides what you see on the field, he’s been a great leader for us…and he’s been outstanding since his return from the European Championships.”
Secondly, Beckham, Omar Gonzalez, Edson Buddle, Mike Magee and Donovan have all missed key stretches of the season. But with the exception of Beckham, all of them suited up on Friday, and Donovan didn’t miss a beat with an assist in his first MLS game in over a month.
“We’re getting there,” Donovan said. “I think we get David healthy and we’re finally healthy. We’ve got a lot of options and there’s a lot of guys on the bench…that would start for a lot of other teams in this league.”
One such option will be Swedish winger Christian Wilhelmsson, who signed on Sept. 4 and scored a goal in his debut on Friday.
Wilhelmsson, who spent the last four years playing for Al-Hilal FC in Saudi Arabia, figures to continue to play a big role in the offense even after Beckham returns, and the hope is that his mix of experience and skills playing wide will give the Galaxy more scoring opportunities.
Not to be overlooked, Arena must be given credit for keeping his team composed throughout the ups and downs of the season, not to mention for the job of reintegrating players coming back from injuries without pushing them too hard.
Despite characterizing his team’s latest first-half performance as “sloppy,” the Galaxy came back to play a strong second half that Arena was pleased with in the win.
With five league games to play, the Galaxy have found the perfect time to get healthy and Donovan knows there’s still a chance for his team to reach the top of the Western Conference standings before it’s all said and done.
“I said it earlier in the week: We’re greedy. We want more,” Donovan said. “It was maybe not our best game, but an important win and it keeps pressure on the teams ahead of us.”