LA Galaxy fans, since the retirement of Greg Berhalter, have gotten used to the center back pairing of A.J. DeLaGarza and Omar Gonzalez. This year Bruce Arena has tried to bring back a center back pairing that he used briefly in 2011, Gonzalez and Leonardo. It's a bit strange to see the pairing return, after DeLaGarza/Gonzalez won and MLS Cup and then after Tommy Meyer asserted himself in last year's playoffs. However, it appears to be a pairing that Arena is going to continue to push.
Leonardo's strength is aerial duels, while his one red card in seven starts this year causes Who Scored to list him as very weak in discipline and concentration. However, with LA showing a recent weakness on set pieces, Arena has not only changed up the starting goalkeeper position but gotten Leonardo back into the mix as well.
"It's good," said Bruce Arena. "They've played together on and off over the years. I think it's important to have high-profile centre backs. Leonardo gives us that. You see a lot of these games when you're under a lot of pressure. The ball's in the air, we're being challenged. Our centre backs can hold up to those battles."
When Arena says high-profile, he doesn't mean a player who sells a lot of jerseys. He means a 6'2", 176 lb player who can get up on balls in the air and knock them away. Having Gonzalez and Leonardo in the center together takes away one of the ways teams have found to beat the Galaxy this year. That and the play of Jaime Penedo had a lot to do with LA getting their first win away from home since May.
"Has it been that long?" said Omar Gonzalez. "Wow, ok that's great for us then. This is the final 10 games so we should start winning games."
It's risky, changing up the defense with less than a third of the season left to go. The injury to Robbie Rogers has Arena trying to get Sean Franklin involved in the midfield again, with Gyasi Zardes on the other side trying to create space with his quickness. Franklin and Hector Jimenez are relied upon to be the crossers. Yet, despite a new look, Gonzalez waxed nostalgic after the match.
"You know this reminds me of a couple years back," said Gonzalez, "or maybe even last year when we were winning games 1-0. Those games are really important for us, and we used to pride ourselves on winning games 1-0, and tonight we really worked hard as a team. Everyone had each other's back, and individuals moments also were a big key factor with Jaime in goal making a big save for us for us to save three points, so all around I thought it was a great game."
As the saying goes, the more things change the more they stay the same. In switching things up on defense, Arena was able to inspire the confidence in each other that was key to the playoff runs of the last four years.