The trend of recent results is good news for fans in several MLS cities, and a worrying development to those who follow the Galaxy.
In fact, the balance of power is tilting further
and further away from Los Angeles, which despite a great stadium and the league's most potent attack is looking at a stretch run getting steeper and steeper.
It failed to win for the
seventh straight time Sunday in San Jose, losing, 3-2, after falling behind early and rallying to tie the match, 2-2, with goals by Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle, whose neck-and-neck scoring
duel has them atop the league race as well as for the team lead. But despite Donovan's 13th goal of 2008 and Buddle's 12th, LA posted its eighth loss.
By winning over the weekend,
Houston (6-4-8, 26 points) and FC Dallas (6-6-7, 25 points) jumped over the Galaxy and into second and third place, respectively, in the West. Los Angeles (6-8-5, 23 points) is in fourth place and
just barely in the playoff picture as No. 8 overall, just one point in front of four, count 'em, four other teams.
And by conceding three more goals, including a 90th-minute winner
to a defender, Ryan Cochrane, who had scored twice in his previous 91 MLS games, the league's most porous defense (40 goals) showed no signs of solving its problems heading into the final third
of the season.
Keeper Steve Cronin let a Darren Huckerby shot slip through his hands on the second Quakes goal, and in the final minute repelled a cross, then stymied Huckerby with
an excellent save, but couldn't stop the rebound.
How bad is it going for the Galaxy defense? Ponder these factoids: *
No other team has conceded even 30
goals this season. Next in line is D.C. United, with a dozen fewer at 28. *
Chicago (14), New England (18), and Houston (19) have allowed less than half as many. *
Los Angeles gave up three goals to a San Jose team dead last in league scoring, with only 12 in 18 games before kickoff. *
recent signing, defender Eduardo Dominguez, looked so shaky in his debut last week, a 4-0 pasting at FC Dallas, he never got on the field against the Quakes. The first Dallas goal deflected off
Dominguez into the net, and two minutes later, he lost the ball to Kenny Cooper, who swapped passes with a teammate and drilled in the second goal.
Worse of all, the Galaxy is not
conceding goals solely through individual breakdowns, though certainly it suffers plenty of those. Its midfield is porous and loses too many duels, its superstars aren't taking command in dire
Coach Ruud Gullit returned rookie Sean Franklin to the starting lineup alongside central defender Greg Vanney, with Ante Jazic at left back and Chris Klein on the right side.
San Jose attacked both flanks with two, three, and sometimes four players linking passes and interchanging positions, and not until late in the first half did Jazic and Klein get some badly needed
Yet even when help arrived, too many times Galaxy players were outhustled and outfought for knockdowns or 50-50 balls. Midfielders Ely Allen and Pete Vagenas often got a
foot in to jar the ball loose, but seldom did the Galaxy gain possession to defuse the San Jose momentum.
Donovan did break free on a few of his trademark dribbles to skate past
multiple challenges, and Beckham delivered his usual supply of telling crosses - including back-to-back serves that Donovan first headed off the crossbar and then into the net to cut San Jose's
2-0 lead in half - but not until more than an hour had gone by could they infuse a rhythm into the Galaxy offense. When they were needed to gain control of the match, to move the ball and bring
teammates into the play and take the steam out of their opponents, they couldn't get it done.
By the time LA had clawed its way back to 2-2, it had gone to a three-man back line.
Gullit took out Klein to bring on Carlos Ruiz as a third forward to supplement Alan Gordon and Buddle. After Buddle's tying goal, Gullit kept the alignment intact, believing perhaps San Jose -
which had won just three of 18 games - would press for a winner and might be susceptible to a counterattack.
Gullit underestimated just how fragile his team has become. In the final
minutes, with the ball at his feet deep in the San Jose defensive third, Ruiz stiff-armed an opponent and referee Abby Okulaja whistled for a foul. Ruiz protested briefly as his teammates dropped
back; from the ensuing free kick, San Jose pinned the Galaxy back and eventually won a throw-in near the corner flag.
Cronin palmed out a Ramiro Corrales cross but San Jose controlled
the loose ball; Huckerby shot the rebound low to the keeper's left and Cronin turned it aside but the rebound eluded three Galaxy players; Cochrane got to it first and banged it into the net.
The advent of World Cup qualifying, for which Donovan and Beckham will be summoned, casts a few dark shadows on the Galaxy's playoff chances. It has just one game, the derby with rival
Chivas USA Aug. 14, before international callups commence. If Chivas wins next weekend, LA drops to fifth.
Houston, FC Dallas, and even last-place San Jose - which has three ties and
a win in the last five games - are revving up; at best, Los Angeles - even with its superstars - seems stuck in second gear.