CARSON, Calif. – Center backs Dave Romney and Dan Steres understandably have received much of the credit for the LA Galaxy’s late-season surge towards an MLS Cup playoff spot.
The unheralded duo has helped spark a defensive rebirth that has resulted in two consecutive shutouts, including Saturday’s 3-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps at StubHub Center, and put the Galaxy on the cusp of a postseason berth that appeared out of the question as the five-time MLS Cup champions struggled through a recent seven-game winless streak (0-4-3).
But there is another twosome that deserves its share of attention as well. Jonathan dos Santos and Sebastian Lletget have solidified a midfield that suddenly has proven difficult for opponents to penetrate.
Dos Santos, in particular, has been especially impressive with his recent play. Interim head coach Dominic Kinnear was effusive in his praise of the Mexican national teamer.
“Jonathan is getting a lot of the ball, and he doesn’t really waste the possession,” Kinnear said after Saturday’s game. “And if he does, he’s one of the first guys to be responsible to get the ball back.
“He was a bit of the tempo-setter for us (Saturday). I thought the way he played, even leading up to the first goal, was good to watch … interactive with players, passing the ball and moving.
“And a lot of that revolved around Jonathan,” he went on,“ so obviously we know he’s an important player to the team.”
Dos Santos was subbed out by Perry Kitchen in the 84th minute Saturday after suffering an apparent cramp in his left leg, but he said there was nothing to worry about.
“I was a little tired, to be honest,” he said through an interpreter. “For the next training and game, I’ll be fine, God willing.”
Dos Santos, who has started the last four consecutive games after missing the previous two and now apparently fully recovered from a recent hamstring injury, said it’s difficult to put his finger on what has changed lately for the Galaxy, not only in his own performances but those of his teammates in general.
“A little bit of everything,” he said. “The mentality of the team. Dom as well, who has done a great job with the team. It’s beautiful to be in this winning streak and we hope to continue with this confidence.”
Dos Santos said he can feel momentum building from a team and personal standpoint.
“I feel like I’m gaining confidence,” he said. “Yes, it’s also true that I haven’t been at my best these past few months. I’ve worked very hard, but sometimes you just have these bad runs.
“At the end of the day, it’s a team effort. Now thanks to the team and to everyone, every player looks better.”
And about his partnership with Lletget, dos Santos found plenty to be thankful for. He even joked about it.
“The absolute worst. Sebastian is very bad,” he said with a laugh and with Lletget standing nearby. “Honestly, I appreciate him a lot. He is a great player.
“Every time we play together we understand each other very well. He’s a player with great abilities and when I have him playing next to me, he makes it much easier.
“For me,” he continued, “apart from being a good friend outside of the pitch he’s an important player for the team.”