When you think of the best defenses in MLS, teams like Colorado and Real Salt Lake have to come to mind because they win games by thin margins, where their defense is visibly keeping the team in the game and in the end, pulling home the points.
But the fact that the LA Galaxy are tied for the league lead in goals surrendered may be a bit of a surprise because they don’t always win games by slim margins. They don’t always need the defense to deal with constant pressure. All three of the Galaxy’s wins have been by two goals or more. Meanwhile, the defense has yet to surrender more than a single goal in a game. They have only given up five goals in six games played.
So while the inclination may be to look at Zardes and Dos Santos and say ‘that’s why they are doing so well’, it is just as important to look back at Daniel Steres and Jelle Van Damme and say the same.
The injury to Robbie Keane was never an ideal situation, but defensive solidity has ensured that nothing has befallen the Galaxy in his absence. In fact, no team in MLS has a better goal differential than the LA Galaxy.
It all starts with the center backs. Steres, the comeback kid, and Van Damme, the seasoned veteran, have come together to form an excellent partnership of pure physical dominance. But it’s not through challenging an opponent in possession that they make their killing. Both Steres and Van Damme combine to intercept seven passes per game, split almost evenly down the middle.
This is a very proactive defense that will snuff out attacks before they can get started. Steres and Van Damme have proven that, but it stretches out to the fullbacks as well. Ashley Cole, just like his center back team mates, is averaging 3.6 interceptions per appearance.
Even Steven Gerrard is getting in on the action with 3.3 interceptions, with Nigel De Jong right behind him with 2.8. Every player that is involved in this defensive scheme clearly has only one thing in mind – read the attack and cut out their passing lanes and supply channels.
The Galaxy may only sit in fifth place, but the case can be made that they are currently the best team in MLS. Their defense is as solid as they come, their midfield is packed with experienced veterans and their attack has proven that even without Robbie Keane, they are one of the best units in the league.