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SOCCER

League-leading Galaxy hardly a dominant team

May 15, 2011|Grahame L. Jones

Before its game Saturday night against Sporting Kansas City in Carson, the Galaxy was one-third of the way through its 16th Major League Soccer season.

But whether that season would end with the team in the championship match, MLS Cup 2011 at the Home Depot Center on Nov. 20, was debatable.

"It's important that we try to reach it because I think it would be heartbreaking for us if we're not in that final," midfielder David Beckham said Friday.

The way things are going, Beckham and Co. are nowhere close to being a lock to make it to the title game. The Galaxy was in first place overall in MLS before Saturday's match, but at 4-2-5 it has hardly been dominant.

Winning only four of 11 games makes it no better than average, really.

In fact, if Coach Bruce Arena's squad keeps playing the same way and with the same results, it could end the 34-game regular season with a record of something like 13-6-15.

That would be considerably less impressive than its league-best 18-7-5 mark of 2010 and not much better than its 12-6-12 record of 2009, when it reached MLS Cup 2009 in Seattle but lost to Real Salt Lake.

"We've got a long way to go and we've got a lot of hard games to play," Beckham said, conceding that the Galaxy has yet to exhibit the form that generates fear in opponents.

Apart from a 3-0 home romp against the expansion Portland Timbers, Arena's side has yet to truly overpower an opponent. Every other victory has been by a single goal, and the team has scored more than one goal on only one other occasion, in a 2-1 road win over the Chicago Fire.

Nor has a winning streak materialized.

"We're definitely playing better, but we obviously still need to improve," Beckham said. "We're not winning as many games as we'd like to. The biggest thing is finishing teams off because we're playing well, but we need to get that second and third goal.

"In the first half of the game here against New York, we found a way of getting through them, and once we found that we had three or four or five really good chances and we didn't put them away," he said.

"Obviously, it costs you at the end of the day, so we have to find a way of beating teams and keeping the pressure up the whole 90 minutes."

The New York game, last weekend, ended in a 1-1 tie, and so did a road match against the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday night. Again, squandered scoring chances were to blame.

"We should have won this game by two or three goals," Arena said after the latest tie. "We missed a bunch of chances."

Landon Donovan, the team's scoring leader with five of the Galaxy's 13 goals, said the same thing in a different way.

"We're giving away points cheaply," he said.

Would a match in which it completely dominated help the Galaxy's self-belief?

"I think we've done that in certain games," Beckham said, "but we've let teams back in. That's something we're going to address and work on and we'll get better at it."

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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