Real Salt Lake Fabian Espindola battles Los Angeles Galaxy Omar Gonzalez for the ball during their MLS western conference playoff soccer game in Carson, California

More on the Galaxy defense: a small statistical sample, but an alarming percentage just the same

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Before we fly our virtual whirlybird out of L.A. Galaxy airspace, let’s take one more quick look at the defensive issues on Bruce Arena’s club:

This time the assist comes from Brian Straus at the Sporting News. He points out how Bruce Arena keeps underselling Omar Gonzalez’s absence.

It’s not hard to understand why Arena keeps doing this. He’s the manager, and part of his job is to protect his players’ belief in themselves. Specifically, he needs under-fire center back A.J. DeLaGarza to rise to this moment. He needs right back Sean Franklin to have the confidence, while defending one-on-one in the corners, that his center backs can deal with any crosses he concedes.

So Arena is spinning, doing his best to arrest any signs of sagging confidence. It won’t help matters if the wise, highly respected manager is boohooing about injuries and absences no longer in his control, since that horse is way out of the barn.

Still, his words cannot alter the reality that this team sorely misses MLS 2011 Defender of the Year Omar Gonzalez. Let NBC’s Kyle Martino say what Arena can’t (from Straus’ piece in the Sporting News.)

The reality is that a lot of people underestimated Omar Gonzalez,” former L.A. and U.S. national team midfielder Kyle Martino, NBC’s new soccer analyst, told Sporting News. “We were talking to Landon (Donovan) last week, and he said, ‘Not only was Omar the defender of the year, but for me, he was the (league) MVP. He bailed us out so many times because of his size, his athleticism and because of the way he reads the game.’”

Here’s the raw data on it all. Remember, this is a Galaxy team that had such a fantastic back like a year ago, backstopping a side of experts when it came to managing matches. Only seven times in the entire 2011 season did the Galaxy allow more than one goal in a game. That’s seven times out of 34. Compare that to what has happened already this year, in five matches over two competitions.

  • 2-2 draw at Toronto
  • 3-1 loss at home to Real Salt Lake
  • 2-1 loss at home to Toronto
  • 3-1 win at home over D.C. United
  • 3-1 loss at home to New England

Conceding more than a goal was a statistical rarity last year (just 20.6 percent of the time.) This year it’s the complete opposite so far. More than one goal has dropped into Galaxy goal in 80 percent of the games, an admittedly small sample, but an alarming percentage just the same.

MLS Snapshot: Colorado Rapids 1-2 Real Salt Lake

SANDY UT - MARCH 14: Olmes Garcia #13 of Real Salt Lake celebrates his goal during their game against the Philadelphia Union at Rio Tinto Stadium on March 14, 2015 in Sandy, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
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The game in 100 words (or less): Real Salt Lake stays alive in the hunt for a playoff berth in the Western Conference with a crucial 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids. After falling behind early, RSL scored twice before halftime and held onto the lead for the rest of the match, moving within three points of the final playoff spot in the West. Real Salt Lake has three matches remaining, including a massive clash against the Portland Timbers, which will pretty much decide their season. For Colorado, it’s another year without playoff soccer.

[ MORE: FC Dallas clinches playoff berth ]

Three moments that mattered

16′ — Doyle heads Colorado into the lead — The former Premier League man gave the home side an early lead, thanks to a powerful header from quite a bit out. Sean St. Ledger played in a cross, where Doyle snapped a header into the top corner past Nick Rimando.

33′ — Joao Plata bends in the free kick — Trailing 1-0, Joao Plata drew RSL level with a brilliant free kick. Plata’s shot dipped over the wall and under the crossbar, as Clint Irwin stood helpless in goal for Colorado.

43′ — Mulholland fires home a volley to put RSL ahead — Luke Mulholland scored his first goal of the season, and it was a beauty. A corner kick popped out to the midfielder at the top of the box, as he rifled a shot off the bounce and into the side netting.

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Man of the match: Luke Mulholland

Goalscorers: Doyle (16′), Plata (33′), Mulholland (43′)

Wenger lauds team spirit following Arsenal’s big win

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Arsenal put on a superb performance against Manchester United today, flying out to a three-goal lead in the opening 20 minutes of the match.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 3-0 Manchester United ]

United was stunned by the fast-paced, free-flowing Arsenal attack, unable to recover from the Gunners’ early dominance.

All of this came on the heels of a disappointing loss to Olympiacos in the Champions League, after which many questioned manager Arsene Wenger and his side.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from Arsenal’s win vs. Manchester United ]

Following the big 3-0 win at the Emirates, Wenger praised his team’s spirit, saying there were outstanding performances throughout the side.

You go from Petr Cech up to Theo Walcott, and we had only outstanding performances. Sometimes we have that magic side in our game.

[Against Olympiacos] maybe we lacked a little bit of urgency and discipline, and that’s why we lost the game. But let’s not forget, last Saturday we won 5-2 at Leicester. Today we beat Man United 3-0.

[The players] have shown that we have an outstanding spirit in the squad. To respond the way we did after what happened to us, you need to have an exceptional spirit.

The Gunners’ performance today immediately silenced all the critics, as Wenger’s side put out on a display that many have been waiting for all season. The combination play of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott was brilliant, as Santi Cazorla continued to impress in the center of the midfield.

Wenger’s teams have not always been known to show strong heart and resiliency, but that’s exactly what they showed today against a Manchester United side that was in great form. Now sitting second on the table, Arsenal continues to climb up the Premier League.