Last Tuesday in Los Angeles, Landon Donovan, Edson Buddle and the rest of the Galaxy were blown off the field by the second-division Puerto Rico Islanders in a CONCACAF Champions League game.
The embarrassing 4-1 loss ranks among the low points in Major League Soccer history: the Galaxy has the best record in the league, boasts two former and two current U.S. World Cup-team players, and a former national-team coach, yet was trounced by a sub-.500 D-2 team in a game that mattered.
MLS teams have underperformed in the history of the CCL tournament, which could be a real boon to the credibility of the league, in the region and the world.
D.C. United won it all in 1998 and the Galaxy took the tournament in 2001, but MLS teams have been shut out of regional Champions League hardware ever since, and they’ve infamously never won a single game in Mexico in this competition.
So yeah, the Galaxy had no reason to take this game lightly.
We’re not saying they did. We’re saying it’s worse than that.
The drubbing to Puerto Rico was the low point (LA fans hope) in a poor post-World Cup run of form by Los Angeles. Sure, they beat Seattle 3-1 in Donovan and Buddle’s adrenalin-fueled first game back from South Africa 2010, but then came a 2-0 loss to New England, a squeaker win over DC, and a last-gasp 2-2 tie against San Jose.
That gave way to the Champions League debacle, and last night, at home, the Galaxy was humbled by Chicago, which ran up a 3-0 lead inside the first 20 minutes before holding on to win 3-2.
The results speak for themselves: all is not well in LA LA Land.
The team’s greatest strength in the first half of the season—defense—is turning into its biggest weakness of late. After conceding just 10 goals in the first 18 games of the year, the LA backline has given up nine in its last three games.
Are centerback Greg Berhalter’s 37 years catching up to him here in the second half of the season? He looked every bit his age against Puerto Rico.
All-Star goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts has been shaky recently as well: he gave up two soft goals to the Fire last night, and conceded three total on four shots.
There’s also the Landon Donovan Situation, which must be a distraction for both the team and the player. He scored two goals last night, but both were from the spot, and he was practically invisible in the first half. Is he pining for a move to Europe, and is the uncertainty affecting the team? We say yes and yes.
Coach Bruce Arena has enough time, and talent on his roster, to get it sorted before the playoffs, but the immediate road ahead is tricky: They have the Champions League return leg in Puerto Rico on Wednesday, a high-profile friendly with Real Madrid on Saturday, and then a sold-out showdown with Thierry Henry, Juan Pablo Angel, Rafael Marquez (it’s official now) and the Red Bulls in New York the Saturday after that.
Don’t be surprised if red-hot Real Salt Lake has overtaken Los Angeles at the top of the West standings by then.