That defense, which was second behind only expansion side Minnesota United in conceded goals last season, has given up eight in five games, including two in Sunday’s 2-0 loss to visiting Sporting Kansas City in front of a crowd of 25,846 at StubHub Center.
Sunday’s defensive performance certainly wasn’t as poor as some of the more forgettable one’s last season. In fact, it came down to a five-minute stretch in the second half that proved costly for a Galaxy (2-2-1) team which is winless in its last seven meetings (0-4-3) with their Western Conference rival.
Daniel Salloi gave the visitors a 1-0 lead in the 61st minute when he pounced on a deflection off the Galaxy’s Ola Kamara deep in the penalty area. Then just five minutes later Johnny Russell made it 2-0 when he dribbled through the Galaxy’s Dan Steres and Ashley Cole before beating Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham with a partially tipped shot just outside the goal area.
“We keep conceding kind of easy goals,” Cole, the Galaxy’s veteran left back and team captain, told reporters. “If you want to win, you can’t concede goals like we have been.”
The Galaxy’s problems on defense could come down to something as simple as effort, according to head coach Sigi Schmid.
“We need to be better at winning our duels,” he said. “I think in the last 30 minutes we won our duels. We got into people and we won 50-50 balls. I think prior to that we didn’t, and that makes it hard to play defense.”
It’s not that the Galaxy played poorly on defense on Sunday – Sporting Kansas City finished with only four shots on target compared to the Galaxy’s 10 – but any lapse on defense gets magnified, especially after a season like last year’s.
There has been a considerable infusion of new talent on the back line and logically it will take time for the revamped defense to mesh, but Galaxy players weren’t willing to use possible chemistry problems as an excuse.
“We need more intensity,” new center back Jorgen Skjelvik said. “We just sit back instead of going out and pressing them high. Take charge and control; we need to step up our intensity and the work rate on defense.
“We can’t sit back and wait.”
Midfielder Perry Kitchen agreed.
“Defending is a full team effort,” he said. “It’s not ideal giving up three goals the last game and two goals tonight. Defending is a full team effort. It’s just determination, desire.
Cole said there is no reason to be concerned just five games into the regular season. He also said any necessary adjustments on defense would be minimal.
“I think minor tweaks,” he said. “We’ve gone over video, we’ve worked in training. Just kind of individual mistakes. But as a team, how did it get to that point when they’re counter-attacking?
“Once again little kind of tweaks we need to go over, but it’s still early in the season. So we have time.”