Last night the LA Galaxy did many things right and deserved commendation for their performance, but there was a sequence late in the game that gave DC United brief hope which renewed doubts in one of Bruce Arena's mainstays at center back off the bench. Jaime Penedo set himself up to corral a Caskey cross, but Leonardo running to stay marking Eddie Johnson clipped the ball with his left foot over Penedo and into the back of the net.
It's gotten to the point where fans assume Leonardo will be directly responsible for giving up a goal per game. His rating on WhoScored is unfortunately inflated by performances in Galaxy routs. He's turned in a 7.25 or better three times, all wins by multiple goals. When called on in close games, he's averaged a much more pedestrian 6.65.
When I asked Bruce Arena last night if he felt Leonardo was a liability, he said "there couldn't be a more inaccurate statement to say he's a liability. He's a center back in statistically the best defense in the league. He's been pretty good."
That stands in direct contrast to the way he's perceived by fans and media alike. Leonardo has been single handedly blamed for the loss in Tijuana, the slow start against Colorado, and here this own goal. Tweets about Leonardo are rarely of a positive light.
Hopefully that's ballgame. But with Leonardo in there, we can never be too sure about a lead.— Christopher Dwyer (@dwyercd) August 28, 2014
Leonardo must know where every single body is buried. #LAvDC— Matthew Doyle (@MLSAnalyst) August 28, 2014
Ball goes off Leonardo's left foot. Should be an own goal b/c Penedo had it covered, but could be Caskey's since it's heading on goal #LAvDC— Ben Jata (@Ben_Jata) August 28, 2014
One other frustrating thing here: #DCU has done nothing to expose Leonardo for being Leonardo.— Jason (@chestrockwell14) August 28, 2014
The flip side of that is Arena's point. Despite Leonardo the Galaxy have allowed fewer goals than anyone in MLS. The Galaxy are 8-3-5 when Leonardo makes an appearance, and all of the loses were one goal loses.
Maybe liability was too harsh, but there's no denying Leonardo is a weak link that teams will exploit come playoff time. LA was able to overcome Carlo Cudicini's weakness more times than not, but Bruce Arena knew that his poor positioning wasn't going to fly for the playoff push.
With Kofi Opare traded away, it comes down to Leonardo versus Tommy Meyer. Fan perception is certainly that Meyer should be ahead of Leonardo on the depth chart. I wouldn't expect Arena to throw one of his players under the bus, but it's dishonest to suggest that what everyone sees with their eyes is an illusion.
Let's let Shakespeare finish this one
"He is a kinsman to the Galaxy. Affectation makes him false. He speaks not true. Some eleven of them fought in this here strife, and most of those eleven deserved this life. I beg for truth, which thou, Bruce, must say. Leonardo's not good. Leonardo must not play."