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Galaxy defense has questions to answer

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The playoffs are on the horizon and there are numerous questions surrounding the league-leading Los Angeles Galaxy.

After a disappointing loss to the New York Red Bulls last week, the Galaxy will be expecting to rebound against their arch-rivals Chivas USA in the SuperClasico on Sunday evening. With the SuperClasico against Chivas USA on Sunday, the Galaxy's defense will once again face scrutiny as it takes on a Rojiblancos attack led by the in-form Justin Braun.

One cause for worry for the Galaxy has been the extended injury absence of defender Gregg Berhalter. For a team that started 11-0-2 with nine shutouts, the once impenetrable Galaxy defense has not registered a shutout since a 1-0 victory against the Red Bulls in August, which was Berhalter's last appearance for the club.

Here are some storylines to follow as the Galaxy attempts to regain its early-season form and make a return trip to the MLS Cup Final:

The loss of Greg Berhalter

Without the 37-year old, the organization and shape of the Galaxy as speedy attackers like Dane Richards and Andy Najar have exploited gaps that have appeared in the Galaxy defense. Berhalter has been training with the club despite the injury and may yet make a return to action against the cross the hall rivals. If the veteran were to return to the club, it will be the first time in six matches that the Galaxy will have the opportunity to call upon its veteran defender.

Lack of Depth

With Berhalter injured, the Galaxy have paired Gonzalez along side defenders Leonardo and Yohance Marshall. While the defenders have performed admirably given the circumstances, the limitations from defenders with a combined 12 matches of MLS experiences have become steadily apparent. Following the Galaxy's loss to the Red Bulls, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena was quite direct about the potential limitations of a pair of inexperienced center backs. 

“For us to expect those two guys (Leonardo and Marshall) to come in and not make any mistakes, we’d have to be kidding ourselves."

Franklin to the middle

A potential replacement till Berhalter is fully healed may be defender Sean Franklin. The right back has been a focal point in the Galaxy''s overlapping offense but may need to slot along side of Gonzalez to stabilize the Galaxy defense. Should Franklin slot in along side Gonzalez, that would allow A.J. DeLaGarza to slide into the right back position. DeLaGarza who was Gonzalez's center back partner at the University of Maryland can also slide into Franklin's right back position as well as the center back spot. 

Time for Gonzalez to lead

At the beginning of the season, the Galaxy defender stated that one of his goals for the 2010 season was to improve as a leader on the field for Los Angeles. While Gonzalez has reached All-Star heights for the first time in his career, the Galaxy have continued to struggle defensively even with Gonzalez in the back line. For the Galaxy to make a push to return to MLS Cup in Toronto, the club will need Gonzalez to step and become the leader that the team needs along the back line. 

What are your thoughts about the Galaxy's defense? Can it recover in time for the Playoffs? Are the Galaxy still the favorite for MLS Cup?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 


  1. good lesson here on the value and impact some veteran leadership can have. have to be able to still play, of course, and Berhalter can, but it is evident that he also brings more than just that to the field, and that backline needs whatever that is right now…it’s missing

  2. Per Greg Berhalter,he had a virus he feels much better now and will likely return tomorrow. It was unfortunate timing that Greg and omar were out for the NY game. One of the two with one of the back ups is OK but playing both backups together is too much.

    Let not panic yet.

  3. Berhalter’s absence has been a main reason for the Galaxy defensive woes. Add to the fact that Leonardo was injured for a spell, Yohance Marshall was out on loan and Gonzales was suspended for the Red Bull gsme and the Galaxy defense did look shakey.

    But the main problem in the RB game was the fact you had Leonardo and Yohance Marshall as the Central Defenders and you had Sean Franklin making runs up flanks. This works only if you can keep the gaps created by Franklin runs covered. They were not. And you can see the RB saw this as most of thier shots were taken in those gaps on the right side.

    I don’t know why De La Garza didn’t take a CD spot and forbid the Franklin forays. But Arena gambled and it didn’t pay off.

    I do not believe that the Galaxy defensive woes will not disappear until the return of Berhalter.

  4. is maldonado still with chivas? we didnt have berhalter and gonzalez in the ny game so that game shouldnt really count on addressing the defense issues. Leonardo was playing hurt by the way.

  5. Ayyy ELAC too funny.

    I like Braun, he give way more effort than Buddle. Gordon makes the D work as well, and if the Galaxy start Marshall and Leanardo…well lets just say each Chivas forward will get 1.

  6. The injury problem has not been limited to Berhalter. AJ has had a knee strain, so most of the proposals for moving Franklin to the middle require another solution. In the absence of AJ, the options on the right are Bryan Jordan and Chris Klein. One has a lot of speed, but little experience and the other has a lot of experience, but little speed (any more). So, basically Arena has concluded that our center back depth is better than our right back depth. Taking out Leonardo for AJ at half last week may have been in part a function of the reality that AJ wasn’t yet fit for a full game. If he now is, that opens up more options.

  7. Why worry? Against Gordon, Braun, and Maldonado, the Galaxy can have dwarfs and Chivas USA won’t score.

    I’m a Chivas USA fan, too.

  8. I’m getting real tired of this Leonardo and Marshall starting at CB garbage. Clearly the best defensive back 4 lineup is (right to left) Franklin, Omar, Berhalter and Dunivant. Obviously with Berhalter hurt, the Galaxy haven’t been able to do that, so Bruce has been forced to start Leonardo or Marshall. I’m a huge fan of AJ DeLaGarza. He doesn’t provide the service that Franklin does on the right, but I’m more confident on defense at least with AJ on the right, and Franklin in the middle with Omar. Hell, why not not keep Franklin on the right, and start AJ with Omar in the middle?

  9. I think LA is vulnerable going into the post season even if Berhalter can go. He is a veteran, but missing as many games as he did, and being 37, getting back to full speed is not going to be a quick process.

  10. I think AJ’s service into the box is what’s keeping that defensive scenario you proposed from happening. Franklin is just far better at those overlapping runs and crosses into the box than AJ. I’m actually more surprised that we haven’t seen Klein play that right back role, considering the circumstances.


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