SAO PAULO (AP) – Imagine being Great Britain Olympic manager Stuart Pearce on Saturday night. You made the trip to Los Angeles to get a first-hand look at David Beckham to see if he is worth a call-up for the Olympics. You know he plays for the defending MLS champion, the Los Angeles Galaxy , and you know they boast quality players such as Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan. Pearce would have been correct to expect top quality on the field.
Yet what Pearce saw was a lackluster display from Bruce Arena's club. Despite the fact the New York Red Bulls were missing, among others, French star Thierry Henry, David Beckham tried his hardest to impress Pearce and failed to lead the Galaxy to a victory.
While Pearce might have headed back to England thinking he might have just caught the Galaxy on a bad night, the harsh truth is that bad nights have been the rule, not the exception for the Galaxy in 2012; a season that began with extremely high expectations, and a widely-held belief that this team would be even better than the squad that won the MLS Cup and Supporters Shield in 2011.
Just nine games into the season, the Galaxy have already lost as many games (five) as they did last season. Plus, they have already lost three of six home games this season after going undefeated at home in 2011, while also entering into the season with a 25-match home unbeaten streak in MLS regular season matches.
What started out looking like a simple early-season slump is starting to look much worse now that the team has put together a three-match winless streak capped by Saturday's stinker versus New York.
The team figured to have some issues replacing injured defender Omar Gonzalez, but the problems the team is facing goes well beyond his absence. Yes, Arena has struggled finding a defensive partnersip capable of being consistent, let alone dominant. Yet, Gonzalez's absence doesn't account for the team's offensive struggles, or the lackluster play of veterans Edson Buddle and Juninho, who were the surprising re-signings of the winter that figured to push the team to new heights.
The unsettling thing about the Galaxy's struggles is that, on paper, the team is stacked with proven players who just aren't clicking. It would be one thing if, like the New York Red Bulls, the team was beset by injuries or simply short of talent in certain glaring areas of the field. But when you look at the starting Galaxy lineup at full strength, you are left scratching your head at just where (besides Gonzalez's absence ) the team needs help.
What LA needs more than anything else is for its stars to step up. Beckham has been anything but consistent, and even the pressure of Pearce being in attendance on Saturday couldn't conjure up some magic out of Beckham, who turned 37 earlier in the week.
Beckham gave effort, and surely looked like a player trying to impress, but he just looked like a player incapable of taking over a game. He wasn't alone though. Neither Donovan nor Keane fared much better either.
So what can Arena do? There isn't much he can do aside from shake up the lineup and bench players in hopes of sending a message. He has already tried that, most recently resting Beckham and Keane during the team's 2-0 loss to Seattle last Wednesday, and earlier in the season by pulling Beckham at halftime of a particularly lackluster performance.
The Galaxy can't do much else because they spent every salary cap dollar they had building this supposed "dream team" of MLS. Now that the team isn't clicking, there is nothing to do but hope the club stars start playing like stars and wish that one of Arena's defensive options can at least bring some stability to the position until Gonzalez returns in the fall.
That sort of goal is a far cry from what most would have expected for this LA Galaxy team, but as Stuart Pearce learned on Saturday, this Galaxy team just isn't as good as anybody thought it would be.
Toronto FC's 2-0 loss to D.C. United dropped them to 0-8 on the season, the worst start in MLS history. Aron Winter hasn't been fired yet, but given the success Vancouver and Montreal are enjoying, it is difficult to imagine the Dutch manager lasting beyond this week; particularly if Toronto FC are eliminated from the Canadian Championship by Montreal on Wednesday.
Bill Hamid returned to the starting lineup for D.C. United and looked sharp in shutting out Toronto FC. Having lost his job temporarily to Joe Willis, Hamid looked like a player who has no intention of losing his job again. If anything, you wonder if D.C. head coach Ben Olsen didn't wait a week too long to give the job back to Hamid.
SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE?
While LA has been a disappointment this year, the Seattle Sounders are looking every bit the title contender they were expected to be. The Sounders posted two shutout wins last week and are poised to move in on first place in the West despite having lost Mauro Rosales to injury for six weeks. Eddie Johnson is playing well, and Fredy Montero is starting to show some MVP-caliber form.
Seattle's latest victim was the Philadelphia Union , which were shut out for the third time this season and have managed a league-low five goals scored on the season. The pitiful offensive production has the Union sitting in ninth place in the East, and is raising more questions about the team's decision to trade away scoring leader Sebastien Le Toux in the off-season.
SPENCER FEELING THE HEAT
The Portland Timbers finally didn't blow a late lead, but they didn't score either in a scoreless draw against the equally disappointing Columbus Crew . The pressure is starting to mount on John Spencer, who has the Timbers in last place in the West.
Chris Wondolowski scored three more goals last week, including two in San Jose's 5-3 win against D.C. United last Wednesday, to give him a league-leading 11 on the season. With Thierry Henry injured, Wondolowski is currently four goals ahead of the next-highest active goal scorer (Kenny Cooper). He is playing well enough to merit US Men's national team consideration and is looking like an MLS MVP front-runner with about a quarter of the season gone.