The weekend biggie in Major League Soccer matches the best team in MLS (at the moment) against the best team in MLS (or so everyone thought).
Livestrong Sporting Park is the venue as undefeated, untied Sporting Kansas City hosts the reeling Los Angeles Galaxy (4 p.m. ET, ESPN).
The Galaxy struggles have topped MLS storylines this year. So L.A. manager Bruce Arena addressed some of the questions springing up around the Home Depot Center on Thursday. He told Extra Time Radio that his team certainly didn’t play well in last week’s 3-1 loss at home to New England.
He didn’t have solutions, exactly, but wasn’t tossing out excuses either. The heavy physical burden of those early, important Champions League matches? No longer a factor, he said.
“I don’t know that you ever chalk up losses to,” Arena told Extra Time. “If we knew why, it wouldn’t have happened. It wasn’t a good day I think need to give New England credit. They played well, they were opportunistic. They worked harder than we did.”
He also addressed the team’s defensive woes, having seen the Galaxy concede 11 goals in five matches (in all competitions). Four of those five matches were at home.
“The mistakes we made can be fixed,” he said of the beleaguered back line. “Some of them are pretty basic. We’ve probably given up one or two goals that may have been good goals, but they are all correctable mistakes, and hopefully over time they will be corrected.”
Arena talked about breaking in A.J. DeLaGarza and Omar Gonzalez back in 2009, about some of the elementary booboos his first-year pros made back then. But here’s the difference:
That team had Gregg Berhalter, whose mentoring presence was a major boon to Gonzalez’s development. (Gonzalez, in fact, won MLS Rookie of the Year, surely due in some part to Berhalter’s tutelage.)
This team doesn’t have a Berhalter. DeLaGarza worked last year as a reliable central partner alongside the dominant Gonzalez, but he’s not a cornerstone figure.
Some of the mistakes might be correctable, but there’s only so much certain individuals can do. Bottom line here: the Galaxy must address its hole at center back, or get a whole lot more work and help out of the midfield.
Saturday is the next big test; if Arena’s men aren’t up for it, Sporting Kansas City has enough ability to take things from bad to worse in a big hurry.