Lineup tweak sparks goals for Galaxy in 3-1 win over Chivas USA

Bruce Arena made some alterations to his Galaxy XI and the results were impressive.

After spending parts of this season in last place in the Western Conference, the LA Galaxy continued their sprint up the standings Saturday with a 3-1 win over city rivals Chivas USA. Designated players Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane accounted for all three goals and could have gotten more, as Donovan hit the post twice and Keane had a goal disallowed in the first half.

The recent glut of goals—the Galaxy scored seven in road games at Vancouver and Portland last week—has coincided with Donovan being moved further upfield to pair with Keane as a forward. Donovan usually plays in midfield but is comfortable playing at forward, a pocket ace many coaches in the league would love to have.

Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena was more than happy to point out how the move has affected the team. 

“We’re scoring an awful lot of goals, right? And so are [Keane and Donovan]. It’s a simple answer. It’s been pretty damn good,” Arena said of the lineup tweak.

Keane, along with the entire Galaxy offense, had struggled to score goals earlier in the season. But on Saturday, Donovan’s speed repeatedly put pressure on the Chivas backline, which the Galaxy were able to take advantage of in 48th minute when Keane sprung Donovan past the Chivas offside trap for an easy score and a 2-0 advantage.

Having another threat up top to occupy opposing defenses has in turn created more scoring opportunities for Keane, which Arena said the Republic of Ireland striker has taken advantage of.

“He’s had a number of chances. He’s put his chances away. His partnership with Landon helps. [The pairing provides] better coordination with the players,” Arena said, something his striker confirmed.

“I think we’re playing quite well, our movement, the way we’re linking up,” Keane said.

During the post-game press conference, Arena also said he regretted allowing Keane and Donovan to go on loan to English Premiership clubs Aston Villa and Everton during the offseason. The loans caused the players to miss the Galaxy’s preseason training camp, when Arena said they could have developed the chemistry they are now starting to display.

“Although they played together at the end of last year, they still needed time together. And we started with a group of players that hadn’t had a preseason together, which was a major mistake, and I accept the responsibility for that,” Arena said. “Now we’re building into the second half of the season. They’re much more familiar with each other, and they’re playing better.”

Donovan acknowledged the lack of a preseason could have been a factor in the team’s slow start, but said other factors played a role.

“It may have. It’s hard to know,” Donovan said. “We probably all made a few mistakes in the way the offseason and the preseason went. You know, people forget we went away on a postseason trip right after the [2011] season, so a lot of guys didn’t have a lot of time to rest, so it took us some time to get ourselves going again.”

Donovan and Keane’s prolific partnership has cast doubt on how striker Edson Buddle will fit into the team once he returns from knee surgery.

“I’m not even concerning myself with that,” Arena said. “This is the team we have, and we’re going from there. We have competition in our team. Any players that are coming back from injury have to train well and play well when they get their opportunities.”

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