It would be highly irresponsible to suggest the LA Galaxy are somehow in crisis. They are, exactly, one match into the MLS season and a loss to a very good Real Salt Lake team hardly warrants anything resembling panic. The Galaxy have 33 more MLS matches left to play -- including two more against RSL -- so acting as if one result is particularly meaningful, would just be silly.
Of course, the Galaxy happen to be concurrently playing in another competition and CONCACAF Champions League is not nearly as forgiving as the MLS season. There are very real reasons to be concerned about their prospects in that tournament.
At the time, their 2-2 tie in the first leg of the CCL quarterfinal against Toronto FC was entertaining merely from a schadenfreude perspective. The Galaxy, after all, were considered by just about every pundit (including this one) to be the best team in MLS. Heck, some (including this one) even wondered aloud if the might have the kind of talent that would propel them to historic heights. There was a certain amount of amusement that came with watching them fall behind TFC 2-0. Once they managed to tie up that match, the intrigue of that quarterfinal mostly disappeared.
The Galaxy were heading back home for the second leg, someplace they simply didn't lose. At the time, they were owners of a 24-match unbeaten streak at Home Depot Center. That stretch included a 12-0-5 home record during the 2011 MLS regular season, one win over Chivas USA in the building they share, three wins during CCL play and three wins during the MLS Cup Playoffs. They had posted a +30 goal-differential during that time and shut out their opponents 14 times. It was an absolute fortress.
The operative word here is obviously "was."
Whatever chinks in the Galaxy's armor were shown during the TFC match, RSL exploited on Saturday. The Galaxy's defense -- specifically their centerbacks -- did not look remotely up for the task in either match. Against TFC, that was easily written off as a bit of a fluke. Chalk it up to first-game jitters, playing in front of a massive crowd or the poor artificial turf.
All those excuses rung hallow on Saturday. Once again, the Galaxy defense looked out of place, out of sorts and in over their heads. Normally steady fullbacks Sean Franklin and Todd Dunivant had lapses rarely seen in years past. AJ DeLaGarza looked downright awful at times. Rookie Tommy Meyer, who replaced Andy Boyens after just one match, never looked particularly comfortable either. There were expectations that the Galaxy defense might struggle without Omar Gonzalez, but the degree to which they have has been a bit jarring.
To put their defensive performance into perspective, the five goals they allowed were the same number they allowed in their first nine games with Gonzalez a year ago. The three goals they allowed on Saturday were the equivalent of the number of goals they allowed during their first five home matches of 2011 and more than they allowed in any two of the 24 matches they played at Home Depot Center.
After the match, Galaxy coach Bruce Arena took the blame.
"We had a tired team tonight," he said. "I think this game is on me, it’s my fault. I think I should have used fresher bodies. We hit the wall and made mistakes attributed to fatigue. I think the travel and two games this week added up to being a pretty tired team over the last 20 minutes and it cost us the game. I take full responsibility for that."
That's all fine and good, except it doesn't really leave Arena with many options on Wednesday. Assuming we take him at his word and his players are already on weary legs, should we expect them to be any better a few days from now? Does Arena decide to go with a reserve-heavy lineup in what will easily be their most important match for at least several more months?
Part of me does feel a bit sorry for the Galaxy. While fellow CCL quarterfinalists TFC and the Seattle Sounders were given First Kick weekend off in order to better prepare, the Galaxy were apparently forced to play. Word around the league is that Arena was none too happy with this arrangement. Surely, there's a bit more schadenfreude in the idea of MLS refusing to give the Galaxy a bye while the Chicago Fire senselessly received first week bye.
Even if the Galaxy get past Toronto FC -- and as little as a 0-0 or 1-1 tie would do the trick -- it's hardly going to get any easier for them in the immediate future. Wednesday's match is followed by one on Sunday against a dangerous D.C. United team. By the time the Galaxy visit Sporting Kansas City on April 7, they may well have played eight competitive matches in the span of a month.
Like I said, none of this constitutes a crisis by any reasonable measurement. There's still a very good chance that the Galaxy will advance to the CCL semifinals and could very well win the whole thing. There's an equally good chance that they'll recover just fine in MLS play, too.
But if their first two games showed us anything, it's that they aren't nearly as invincible as they seemed at this time last week.