Donovan Ricketts gets much of the attention for the Los Angeles Galaxy's strong defensive performance, but he shouldn't be the focus. He did have a great Goals Against Average, but his defense also gave up the second least amount of shots in MLS at 289 (good for 2nd, Seattle was at 4th with 305).
Ricketts may be good, but he can only stop the shots coming at him. The guys in front of him are a big reason why he was successful. The health of Gregg Berhalter and a few guys with role flexibility give Bruce Arena many options on how to set up his backline.
Especially now that according to Arena, Berhalter is back (on conference call with Jeremiah and other Seattle media).
He’s getting there. Obviously he had a viral infection that set him back. But he’s been well passed that for the past three to four weeks.
But when he was out, Alex Cazumba (22, on loan from Sao Paolo of Brazil) and Sean Franklin (25, and former Rookie of Year and Team Defender of Year) have been able to lend their efforts to help Todd Dunivant (29, vet last with TFC) on the left and the impressive Omar Gonzalez (22, another Rookie of Year) in the center. A.J. DeLaGarza (22, U of Maryland) also supplements with speed, but little size.
Not many teams can go four deep with MLS quality starters, and the Galaxy get to 6 - for Sounders fans that should be a familiar number of quality defenders. Los Angeles though has something that even the deepest MLS sides don't, that role flexibility.
While Dunivant and Gonzalez are locks, the skills and size differences allow Bruce Arena to do some different things with his backline. Quite atypically the 5'9" 145 pound DeLaGarza plays centerback on occasion. He can use his speed and small size to harass small forwards more like an even deeper CDM, while Sean Franklin can use his size as a flat fullback behind that one guy wide right.
Gonzalez is not the type to let a target man get a free shot on goal, or even a free opportunity to capture the ball. While defense doesn't get much of the glory this is a man who clearly beat Steve Zakuani for the Rookie of the Year and is certainly a top five defender in the league right now with 5 full years before his PEAK.
Where Seattle used veterans to solidify their 2009 run, Los Angeles has drafted three of the better defenders available in a series of drafts and coached them past what most saw them capable of doing. Sure Dunivant and Berhalter are slow, but to think that those two define the Galaxy Defense is to be looking at the Death Star and ignoring all of the Tie Fighters and Destroyers getting in the way.
There is very little old and slow to prevent Seattle from getting shots. This is a whole new Galaxy, and you'll get to see them up close on Sunday.