Remember the Galaxy team that ran roughshod over the rest of Major League Soccer on its way to an MLS Cup title last season?
Well, it's back. And after Sunday's methodical 2-0 win over FC Dallas in front of a sun-drenched Home Depot Center crowd of 21,933, an argument could be made that the team is as good as ever.
"I've heard that from a lot of people. Which is good to hear," said defender Todd Dunivant, who scored the second goal Sunday. "Obviously, you don't want to be living in the past. But it certainly felt like a really good, solid team performance.
"And we've been building toward that."
After stumbling out of the gate last spring, the Galaxy has put together a 15-game tear in which it has won nine times and earned 30 of a possible 45 points. That equals its best stretch from last season.
And after holding three of its last five opponents scoreless, the Galaxy is also playing the same kind of defense it did last year when it tied the league record for shutouts.
That has given the Galaxy (12-11-4) not only more wins than losses for the first time this season, but it also has given the team a newfound confidence, one which allowed it to play patiently until deep in the second half before putting Dallas away with two scores in an 18-minute span.
"We're playing as a team. That's the biggest thing," Dunivant said. "Everyone's backing each other up. Everyone's covering for the other guy. And that makes a difference over 90 minutes."
Playing without captain Landon Donovan, who is nursing a strained left hamstring, the Galaxy got the only goal it would need in the 66th minute when Jose Villarreal, who had come off the bench seven minutes earlier, stole the ball from defender Matt Hedges in the Dallas zone and raced in alone on goalkeeper Kevin Hartman.
Villarreal deked Hartman out of the net, then slipped a neat pass into the center of the box for Juninho, who drove a right-footed shot into the empty net for his third goal in as many MLS games. The assist was the first in MLS for Villarreal, an 18-year-old from Inglewood.
Dunivant made it 2-0 with six minutes left in regulation, scoring at the end of a three-pass sequence that started with Dunivant and included touches by Robbie Keane and Michael Stephens before ending with Dunivant sending a low left-footed shot into the net at the far side for his second score this season.
"These are the kind of the games that we have to be able to win," Coach Bruce Arena said. "We're moving in the right direction. We've just got to keep this going."
Stephens had come on six minutes earlier for David Beckham, who was so troubled by flu symptoms that Arena sent him back to the dressing room before the game had ended.