Photo by David Bernal/ISIphotos.com
By THOMAS FLOYD
Todd Dunivant has gotten used to flying under the radar.
Not hearing his name called throughout a match tends to be a good thing. While he does like to get forward and provide service from the flank, the 30-year-old is cautious when choosing his overlapping runs. And of course, finding enough spotlight to go around can be a challenge for anyone on the Los Angeles Galaxy not named David Beckham, Landon Donovan or Robbie Keane.
But as far as left backs are concerned, Dunivant is about as steady as they come. Since rejoining the Galaxy in 2009, the Colorado native has started 80 out of a possible 90 league fixtures. Until being rested for last weekend's trip to Columbus, he had played every minute of every MLS match this season for the league's top defense.
"I tend not to get the headlines, I tend not to have the flashiest style," Dunivant acknowledged. "Maybe it's just the way I play, but a lot of the things I do just don't get noticed. At the end of the day, we've had the best defense in the league the past two years. So that is really what's important, and I'm happy with that. But it's never the worst thing to get recognition every now and then."
Dunivant, who played his 200th career match in May, noted that being in the lineup game in, game out has been a challenge this campaign when considering Los Angeles has been burdened with four more Champions League contests than it played last year, in addition to the four additional regular season matches every MLS team took on for 2011.
But nearly every time coach Bruce Arena has filled out his team sheet, Dunivant's name has been there. The defender has also enjoyed arguably his finest offensive season since his rookie year in 2003 with San Jose, notching four assists in league play. And Wednesday, he set up Mike Magee's opener in the Galaxy's crucial 2-1 win in Champions League play over Mexico's Monarcas Morelia.
"He's one of those guys who works hard every single day," Los Angeles centerback A.J. DeLaGarza said. "He's really low key, but he just does his job and that's what he's good at."
In his third season back with Los Angeles, which is 17-3-10 and close to clinching a second-straight Supporters' Shield, Dunivant has found comfort in the organization's "stability."
Before returning for a second stint with the Galaxy, Dunivant played for four clubs in six years. Looking back on those more volatile times, he recalled a series of front office changes that resulted in him being shipped from San Jose to Los Angeles to New York to Toronto and, finally, back to L.A.
"Sometimes, those things are out of your hands," Dunivant said. "You get new coaches, new general managers and a lot of turnover, anything can happen. I'm in a position that's pretty specialized, and there aren't a ton of solid, reliable left backs, so I'm going to always be in demand in that sense. So it makes for an easy trade option."
Off the top of his head, Dunivant can rattle off the number of goals Los Angeles has allowed the past four seasons — beginning with 62 in 2008, the campaign before he came back, and ending with 22 in 30 games this year.
With a youthful duo of Omar Gonzalez (22 years old) and DeLaGarza (23) in central defense, and 26-year-old Sean Franklin the first choice at right back, Dunivant has become the elder statesman of the Los Angeles back line.
"Todd's a good, calm player back there," DeLaGarza said. "Obviously, me and Omar have to direct in the middle. But Todd has a voice also, and you like all of your guys to be able to talk."
Although Gonzalez and Franklin were named to the MLS All-Star squad that faced Manchester United in July, coach Hans Backe chose converted midfielders Bobby Convey and Corey Ashe as the left backs on the MLS roster over Dunivant.
In January, Gonzalez, DeLaGarza and Franklin were called up to the U.S. national team for a friendly against Chile. After receiving two caps in the buildup to the 2006 World Cup and being named an alternate to the squad that traveled to Germany, Dunivant has been absent from the international scene despite left back being a glaring hole in the U.S. player pool.
With new coach Jurgen Klinsmann bringing a fresh approach to the national program, however, Dunivant is hoping it's never too late for a second chance.
"That's something that's been on my radar, and I hope I'm on Jurgen's radar because I think I would suit that team very well," he said. "I'd do the job, I'd be reliable, I'd be solid, and I think that's something we haven't had obviously at left back for the national team."
For now, though, Dunivant already has his sights set on the playoffs. Last year, he started 27 games before straining his hamstring at season's end and losing his job to veteran Eddie Lewis. He ended up playing just 10 minutes in the postseason as Los Angeles, the Supporters' Shield winner, crashed out with a 3-0 loss to FC Dallas in the Western Conference final.
"It was very frustrating," Dunivant said. "That's the time you want to be in there to help your team. It's the crunch time, and in this league, you're judged about how you do in the playoffs. Supporters' Shields are great and all, but at the end of the day, that's not really what people remember."