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LA Galaxy turn attention to defense ahead of El Trafico

The numbers aren’t great so far.

MLS: LA Galaxy at Seattle Sounders FC Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

The good news is that the LA Galaxy have won two out of three games to start the season and have scored a healthy six goals so far.

But the bad news is they have conceded seven goals in those three games, a pretty eye-watering number.

Obviously, if you outscore your opponent, then conceding in itself is not a fatal flaw, but after the 3-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders last weekend, the Galaxy know the defense hasn’t put together a strong 90-minute performance yet this season.

For Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney, a defender himself in his playing days, the remaking of LA’s defense, which has been a perennial problem for the team, is a process that will take time.

“I think it’s just recognizing when we can and when we can’t get pressure to the ball and if we can’t we need to reorganize and we need to protect the spaces behind each of our lines,” Vanney told reporters during media availability on Thursday. “I think it’s an awareness at times as much as anything. I think we just get eager to want to get the ball back and try to get possession and score goals and sometimes for us it’s an awareness of not having to be in a rush.”

“We’ve defended reasonably well when our lines are together and we’re connected and we just need to be in that shape a little more often,” he added.

Vanney took the Galaxy job knowing he would need to upgrade the team in essentially every facet on the field. But while the attack has gotten off to a strong start until they were held scoreless in Seattle, the data points are piling up in terms of the defense remaining a liability, even in victories.

“It’s something we have to address,” he said. “We’re three games into the season and trying to establish some new things within the group and bring some new players into the group. So it’s one of the things we highlight very clearly, we need to continue to improve upon. There’s some simple things that I think we can all do and be aware of that will help us in dealing with that. And so we have to do that.”

Goalkeeper Jonathan Bond leads MLS at the moment in saves, with 16. On one hand, leading in a category like that is good in many ways — better saves than goals allowed — but it also shows how many shots on target LA are giving up, since shot volume and saves generally go hand in hand.

On top of that, there hasn’t been a singular weakness that’s led to goals allowed.

“We’ve given up goals in different ways — set pieces, PKs, second phases of set pieces, this weekend a little bit in the transition. The goals are coming in different ways, we need to tighten up each of those as we move forward,” the manager said.

And with a big test coming up on Saturday in El Trafico, with the many-headed hydra attack of LAFC, Vanney is stressing patience and smart decisions over heedless speed.

“Certainly one thing we want to be attentive to with LAFC is their ability to play between the lines and to have fast runners into the depth and in behind us. So we’ve got to make sure we’re dealing with that in the appropriate ways. Some of it’s just awareness because we haven’t done it the entire season. It’s something we’ve done in spurts. I think it exacerbates itself a bit when we go down a goal and we start to get a little overanxious to get the ball back, try to get the goal back,” Vanney said.

While his job is to score the goals far more than to stop the other side from scoring, Chicharito said last weekend’s loss may be just what the Galaxy need to get better for the big game.

“The best part of losses, of bad moments are that you can identify a little bit quicker and in a better way where you can improve and how you can do it as well,” he said. “So we all take responsibility for this. Like I said after Miami and Red Bulls, we are not heroes, LA Galaxy wins, LA Galaxy loses and we all learn from it.”

“Each day, each week and each game we want to get closer to our best shape and our best way to play,” Chicharito added.

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