Todd Dunivant

Todd Dunivant still two months away from returning for the Galaxy

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Fullback has been an area of concern all season for the LA Galaxy. On Thursday, the exact nature of that problem was finally revealed. According to head coach Bruce Arena, left back Todd Dunivant will be out until at least July after undergoing surgery earlier this month to repair an abdominal tear.

Speaking to media Thursday in Carson, Calif., Arena said the 33-year-old defender underwent a procedure the team initially tried to avoid. Now the former Best XI defender, who has been limited to two MLS games this season, is two months away from rejoining a squad that’s struggled to find fullbacks to put on the depth chart.

From the latest at LAGalaxy.com:

“It’s probably late July,” Arena said about Dunivant’s timetable back to the field. “He had the surgery two or three weeks ago….If it didn’t heal from not having surgery and he had to have surgery that it is more severe than [a strain] and it will take a little bit more time.

“The reason that you have the surgery is to heal the tear,” he added before later mentioning that the abdominal tear resembles a sports hernia injury. “The thinking is that he’ll be healed.”

So where does that leave Los Angeles? The same place they were on yesterday. The team still has some depth in the middle, with Kofi Opare, Leonardo, and Tommy Meyer having started recent games. Out wide, however, A.J. DeLaGarza is the left back while Dan Gargan will have to hold down the right.

After leaving Sean Franklin exposed to the Re-Entry Draft, LA knew they would be hamstrung at fullback. Losing James Riley early in the season only made it worse.

With Dunivant sidelined, however, the margin for error is even thinner. Fullback remains an area of concern in Carson.

MLS Preview: LA Galaxy and FC Dallas with so much to gain

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With 11 matches remaining, it’s hard to argue that either the L.A. Galaxy or FC Dallas could lose the chance at a playoff spot in tonight’s clash.

But they could certainly go a long way towards winning one.

The two sides will square off in FC Dallas Stadium with just a point of separation between them, and Los Angeles just a point out of 5th place in the Western Conference. A win for either side will be a major boost in their quest to make the top half.

There’s quite a bit of time left still to make up for lost ground, but the two sides don’t meet again, and they’re sure to be near each other in the standings at season’s end, so the match becomes that much bigger.

It’s arguably more important for FC Dallas, who have had a rough go recently. They haven’t won a league match since May 25, and haven’t even scored a goal in 450 minutes (just over 5 matches!).

Even worse, their last four matches have seen just one point on a 0-0 draw with struggling Montreal, and they lost the other three 3-0, 3-0, and 2-0 (to Los Angeles).  It’s not been pretty. “I don’t think we’re in good form” said coach Schellas Hyndman. Ya think?

It’s been a little better for the Galaxy.  They’re winning matches and scoring goals, but they’re also losing at a decent clip, dropping points as well as gaining them.

It’s no secret the Galaxy are an all-or-nothing team, having drawn just three times all season (only once since March 30).  This seems to be something that the players are finally acknowledging.  “I think we have to start getting a better mentality of getting points on the road” said defender Todd Dunivant. “We have to be a little smarter.”

Note: he didn’t say getting three points, he said getting points.

Don’t be surprised to see Los Angeles hole up and play for the draw on the road, considering they’ve recorded zero points on the road in their last three matches, and have just one win to show for their last seven road ties.

Los Angeles coach Bruce Arena also admitted their side’s defensive set piece difficulties this season, so fouling may be at a minimum.  They’ve allowed seven goals from dead ball situations this season, 2nd most in the league to DC’s eight.

The positive for the Galaxy is that Robbie Keane’s back from a hip flexor injury, and his addition should add a jolt to the already dangerous attack.

Don’t forget: the Western Conference margin between Dallas in 7th and Vancouver in 2nd is just four measly points.  With a solid chunk of time left, anything can happen, and three big ones for either side here could catapult one of them into a very solid position.

Highlights: So this happened to LA Galaxy – five goals from the New England Revolution

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Sometimes it’s not the fact that you lose. It’s how you lose.

That was a refrain we used last week when talking about the Sounders’ collapse in Los Angeles. Allowing four goals in the first half wasn’t necessarily a sign of implosion from a squad that was finishing off a strong May. It was just the way it happened, an inexplicably flat start against a strong opponent, one that couldn’t help but evoke memories of last year’s conference final an the previous postseason’s game at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Today’s late match collapse by the LA Galaxy doesn’t carry such weighty implications, but the undertone of the 5-0 loss may be still telling. The LA defense was without Omar Gonzalez and Todd Dunivant, so extrapolating conclusions onto their first team is a bit of a reach, but as it concerns Sean Franklin, A.J. DeLaGarza and youngsters Tommy Meyer and Greg Cochrane, is has to be disappointing for Bruce Arena see a unit just turn off.

After 70 minutes, the score was 1-0. At full time, it as 5-0, with three of the Revolutions’ goals coming after the 86th minute.

It should go without saying that you never want to see your team collapse like that, but with the game all but decided by the time New England went on their three-goal barrage, there’ll be the temptation to brush this off. With LA missing its two best defenders, there may be an implicit asterisk thrown up next to the score. Those conclusions would overlook something a coach never wants to see. Nobody ever wants to see their team stop playing.

Whether Bruce Arena feels that’s what happened remains to be seen. Regardless, giving up five to the Revolution — a team that came into today’s gave with 10 goals in 12 games — should sound an alarm on some level.

Lest we overlook New England’s result, take a look at that first goal, in the highlights above. Yes, the Galaxy defense are playing off Saer Sene like he’s wearing radio active slide shorts, but the nice movement from right flank to the middle of the area hints Sene, making his first start of the season, is ready to start having the same impact he had in 2012.

That gives Jay Heaps one of the league’s top 10 forwards. And he also has Juan Agedulo. And Lee Nguyen. And Kelyn Rowe, Diego Fagundez, Jerry Bengston and Juan Toja.

And as of right now, New England are even with Philadelphia for fifth place in the East. Maybe the Revolution has begun.

MLS Preview: LA Galaxy at Philadelphia Union

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It’s not just that the Galaxy have lost their last two games. If you want to start worrying about the defending champions (which, you shouldn’t), you can start with LA’s March 30 visit to Toronto. Beginning with that match, a 2-2 draw at BMO, Bruce Arena’s side has only two wins in eight games (counting CONCACAF Champions League). While their two victories were impressive – mauling Sporting Kansas City before a 2-0 victory at Rio Tinto – super team skeptics have given enough fodder to pick from.

But beyond the precedent of last year, when Los Angeles did a spring face plant before retaining their MLS Cup, there’s another reason we should refrain from judging LA took harshly. And thankfully, that reason gives us a great excuse to keep tuning into these uneven performances, even as stars like Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan, and Todd Dunivant are either out or rounding into form.

During these early, low leverage, regular season games, Bruce Arena is testing out the fruits of LA’s development system. Be it from home grown hype of youth national team contributions, they’re players we’ve been hearing about for some time, but as Arena tries them out over the season’s first two months, we’ll see which prospects can have an impact on LA’s question for a third-straight title:

  • Twenty-two year old Greg Cohchrane has been getting Dunivant’s starts at left back, and while early returns have been mixed (he struggled this weekend in Vancouver), that’s what this process is all about. Arena gets to see who will and won’t be part of the puzzle come August.
  • Jack McBean, who doesn’t turn 19 until December, is out with a broken (and since, repaired) clavicle. When he returns, he looks set to have some role in Arena’s attack. In seven appearances (370 minutes), the home grown product has a goal and two assists.
  • Jose Villarreal, a key to the U.S> qualifying for this summer’s U-20 World Cup, is getting playing time at 19, posted a goal and an assist in 348 minutes.
  • Midfielder Hector Jimenez has been given two starts, highly-touted Gyasi Zardes is back from injury, while rookie Charlie Rugg already has his first MLS goal.

Beyond the production, the important thing about this group is there mere playing time. Whether they’ll see as many minutes at the end of the year – after the Galaxy get fully healthy, acquire a third Designated Player, and potentially shop for another Christian Wilhelmsson – remains to be seen, but tonight in Philadelphia, you’ll likely see a number of the Galaxy kids on display.

For all those prospects, the trip to Chester presents an intriguing test. It’s a very winnable game, particularly with Omar Gonzalez fully capable of neutralizing Jack McInerney. The Union, a weak attack even when Jack Man’s on form, have only six non-McInerney goals in 15 games. Gonzalez may have his hands full with Conor Casey, but with McInerney already on seven goals, the Galaxy will be sure to have the league’s best defender keep an eye on the ascending poacher.

If Gonzalez and A.J. DeLaGarza can limit McInerney, then Landon Donovan, Mike Magee, and that strong midfield duo should be able to take full points at PPL Park. If any of the kids chip in, they’ll improve their odds of playing a part when Arena’s team truly comes together.

Landon Donovan gets the captain’s armband for Galaxy

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Any questions about whether Landon Donovan would be accepted back into the Galaxy locker room following his four-month sabbatical from the game got a big answer on Saturday.

Donovan, with just a few practices behind him, got into his team’s contest against Toronto. We talked about that already.

But lesser noticed in the meaning and significance of all this – not just to the Galaxy, of course, but perhaps to the United States national team and its drive along the Road to Rio – was a gesture from veteran defender Todd Dunivant, a former U.S. international and a highly respected figure around MLS.

Dunivant called Donovan over and handed him the captain’s armband.

The Galaxy left back talked about it like “no big deal.” But clearly it is, a powerful gesture of acceptance back into the group. What Dunivant said about it:

It was just a symbolic gesture to show that we had fully welcomed him back. He’s as much as part of these team as he ever was, so it’s as simple as that. He’s been our leader and it’s more of a symbolic gesture than anything.”

Donovan said he was initially taken aback and even attempted to humbly decline; Dunivant insisted, and that was that.

(MORE: Thoughts and highlights of the Galaxy’s 2-2 draw in Toronto)