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STARS NOT SHINING

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The Los Angeles Galaxy, the second most storied MLS franchises in the league’s 17 years that has won three MLS Cup championships, second only to DC United’s four titles, captured four Supporters Shield titles, the accolade for the best regular season record, and its two U.S. Open Cup championships is causing much concern because of its poor play so far.

The current defending MLS Cup and Supporter’s Shield champion has only one victory in four games this season and surprising, the three losses were at home, in the Home Depot Center where the team was undefeated last season.

The Galaxy’s latest loss came last Saturday night when Kei Kamara’s goal carried the undefeated hosts Sporting Kansas City (5-0) to a 1-0 defeat of the mighty Galaxy (1-3). The defending champion returned most of last year’s championship-winning performers and was expected to just pick up where it left off, but just maybe the contribution of the few absentees was underestimated.

When Jamaican international goal keeper Donovan Rickets was hurt last year, Josh Saunders made credible showings in goal, which paved the way for a Ricketts trade to expansion franchise Vancouver Whitecaps, but Saunders reportedly has been much less than stellar this season. What compounds Saunders’ average performances this season is the weakened defensive backline in the absence of Omar Gonzalez, who tore his right ACL while on loan to a German club in the off season and is still recovering from surgery; an adequate replace to team with A.J. De La Garza has not been found and Los Angeles’ poor defensive performance was on display in the New England Revolution’s 3-1 spanking of the MLS champion two weeks ago.

Defensive midfielder Chris Birchall was not re-signed and head coach Bruce Arena must rue the lost of Birchall as he oversees a Galaxy midfield that has lost some fight. The midfield was without English international David Beckham against Sporting Kansas City; both Beckham and U. S. international Landon Donovan have been injured and have seen limited action in the five games, and therein lies the tale of the midfield to date.

The offensive output has been another major disappointment; when 2010 leading scorer Edson Buddle returned after a stint in Germany, it was expected that the U.S. forward’s partnership with Irish international Robbie Keane would be productive. Keane, who played a major part in helping the Galaxy finish as champions last year, has scored three goals and Buddle has one.

The season has a long way to go, and knowing Arena, he’ll do whatever it takes to try to turn the tide in Los Angeles; he’ll have to do it quickly because losing is catching and it will be extremely hard to fall too far behind and catch-up in a very competitive Western Conference.

Red Bull Henry On A Tear

The New York Red Bulls is riding the goal-producing wave of Thierry Henry and frontline partner Kenny Cooper. The Red Bulls (3-2) defeated the Columbus Crew (2-2), 4-1, last Saturday to get their third straight victory; Henry and Cooper each scored twice to carry the team victory and helped the team to lead MLS in most goals scored with 14; Henry has seven and Cooper six. Chad Marshall scored in the last minute of play for Columbus.

Cooper scored in the third and 13th minutes while Henry tallied in the 40th and 90th minutes; the duo has executed efficiently in the early goings of games, which helps the team to get good starts. Against the Crew, Medhi Ballouchy started his first game of the season and looks like he could be the creative spark that could help the Red Bulls create more fluent play in midfield. The ball moved well with Ballouchy in the middle, and this helped other midfielders Dax McCarty and Rafael Marquez as well. Jamaican international Dane Richards was his usual hard-working self in midfield.

The Red Bulls defense was not as fluent in its play without Colombian Wilma Conde; there was miscommunication between goalkeeper Ryan Meara and his central defenders Stephen Keel and Marcus Holgersson, who fouled unnecessarily and still seems to have problems adjusting the MLS. The defensive unit is still a major concern for Coach Hans Backe, but luckily, Henry and Cooper are producing, which gives Backe some time to sort out his defensive unit.

MLS

In other MLS results last weekend FC Dallas knocked off New England Revolution, 1-0, Montreal Impact topped Toronto, 2-1; the San Jose Earthquake was a 3-1 winner over the Vancouver Whitecaps; DC United and Seattle played to a goalless draw; Real Salt Lake topped Colorado, 2-0; and Chivas USA beat the Portland Timbers, 2-1

Japan Wins

Women’s World Cup champion Japan seems primed for the Olympics this summer. The Japanese beat the U.S. in last summer’s Women’s World Cup final in Germany and has kept on with their winning ways. Last Thursday hosts Japan beat Brazil, 4-1, to win the three-team round robin Kirin Cup tournament by goal difference. The Japanese and the U.S. tied their game, 1-1, but U.S. only managed a 3-0 defeat of Brazil in that contest. Brazil was missing its top player Marta.

Updated 2:24 pm, April 13, 2012
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