The LA Galaxy managed a draw on the road yesterday, against an opponent everyone expected them to beat. As frustrating as the 2-2 result may be, the Galaxy shouldn't be too surprised as road results have been hard to come by for all teams in MLS this year. No MLS team has a positive goal differential on the road.
The Galaxy have secured fifteen points on the road this year, which puts them three behind the leaders in road points Salt Lake, New York, and Kansas City. Four road wins ties them for second in the Western Conference in the road win column. In the last six road matches for the group of Western Conference teams, there have only been seven victories.
As bad as DC United has been, their home form has improved lately. In their last six home fixtures they've managed eight points, out of twelve total for the season. That includes victories over the Montreal Impact and the San Jose Earthquakes.
The Impact's propensity to play down defensively every couple of matches has some doubting their playoff chances, while others in the media were simultaneously booking them for MLS Cup. LA have been less up and down that last season, but that same occasional defensive lapse has fans concerned. Bruce Arena for his part shares the same concern, a point wasn't good enough.
"We’re disappointed," said Bruce Arena. "At the end of the game, we’re positioned to have three points and we need to do better in those situations. It was a day where we give D.C. United credit – they played real for 90 minutes. We had to battle real hard. We positioned ourselves poorly at the end of the first half by…I call it giving away a goal."
Giving away points, especially with the end in sight, has been a repeated problem for LA this year. International duty, with World Cup Qualifiers and the Gold Cup instead of friendlies, has been more intense this season and especially for the young Omar Gonzalez it's catching up with them. It even affects those not doing the traveling as players are continually in and out of practice.
"I think, for some reason," said Omar Gonzalez, "the whole team kind of had heavy legs today, particularly our midfield. I thought D.C.’s midfield was winning a lot of the second balls and typically you’ll see that from Marcelo [Sarvas] and Juninho—usually they’re the ones that are winning everything."
Still, not everything is travel, some of it is simply the game of soccer. Donovan and DeLaGarza both went down with injuries that changed LA's shape. That meant an adjustment for Robbie Keane, who at times has shown frustration with the younger forwards still learning the game.
"You hold onto the ball because you wait for people to run," said Robbie Keane, "and if they’re not there what can you do? My legs are strong. I’m not heavy-legged—of course, I’ve been traveling all over the world. I mean, I scored a goal and had an assist, so it can’t be a bad day at the office."
As for Donovan, his injury appears match related and not fatigue.
"It got rolled on," said Landon Donovan. "We got tangled up and he ended up landing on it. Hopefully it’s not too bad."
We'll have to see how soon he and DeLaGarza return to full practice. Donovan especially will be needed this weekend with what is potentially the most important match of the regular season against first place Seattle. It's one of two matches left against Seattle, and they'll need to take away points here if they have any hope of the last match of the year having any relevance.
The shield isn't everything though, despite the name it can't protect teams from postseason attacks. LA won MLS Cup last year without home field advantage, it can be done. It's just more difficult.