It is starting to come together nicely for the two-time defending MLS Cup Champion L.A. Galaxy. The Galaxy started slow but are now in prime position to go after the Supporter's Shield and make a serious run at a 3rd straight MLS Cup title. The stars are starting to shine for the club but the Galaxy have proven once again the ability to make the right move to put the team over the top.
After starting the season on leave in an attempt to rekindle the love of the game, Landon Donovan has been on a mission putting together one of the more impressive stretches in recent memory. Donovan dominated the Gold Cup winning the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player and lead the U.S. to their first title in the CONCACAF tournament since 2007. Donovan has been lethal as of late, with a hat-trick against Dallas on August 11 (a game which L.A. was robbed by shoddy officiating), and providing constant pressure up top with Robbie Keane in the attack. Donovan's golazo laser beam shot last night against Vancouver was world class and puts him only three goals behind Jeff Cunningham for the most career goals in MLS history.
Robbie Keane is putting together a MVP season in MLS. With 10 goals and 9 assists, Keane is directing the attack in multiple ways. The question was recently asked by MLSSoccer.com if Keane was one of the best players ever to play in MLS. The answer is overwhelmingly yes. Now longtime MLS fans may argue that he hasn't been in the league long enough to be considered one of the best, but longevity and production over time is a different category. Robbie Keane is simply the best finisher I have ever seen in this league. Many players can get in position to score, but the ability to finish chances and create chances for others once the path to goal has been impeded is what sets Keane apart from other MLS greats of the past. A friend of mine put it best last year at MLS Cup when he said, "If you are a defender and all of a sudden Robbie Keane is coming at you, it gets real and fast."
While Keane and Donovan are performing at the highest level, it really wouldn't have mattered unless they fixed the goalkeeper position. After moving on from Josh Saunders, Carlo Cudicini has been an absolute disaster in goal for the Galaxy. I have never seen a player with Cudicini's resume so unsure coming off his line. Cudicini was exposed late in a game on June 2 on the road against the New England Revolution, giving up 5 goals, three of which were in the last 10 minutes. Luckily for Galaxy fans the front office recognized the mistake and took action. In order to win a title, you need a keeper that can steal some games and the Galaxy acquired such a keeper in Panamanian Jaime Penedo. Penedo's presence in goal has been stellar in three straight games showing the confidence that Cudicini was lacking. With Penedo's amazing Superman hand save late in last night's game against Vancouver, Penedo may have secured the save of the year in MLS in addition to three points in the standings. Penedo may very well prove to be the missing piece of the puzzle for the Galaxy. Defense late in games has not been good this year, but when the keeper is a mess it makes it hard for everyone.
It is also important to give kudos to the Galaxy for admitting a mistake and making the best move at the goalkeeper position to help the team win. Some organizations would have stood pat and hoped for the best but that mentality rarely equates to results. The Galaxy are 2nd in the West and only 5 points back of RSL for the Supporter's Shield with nine games left. The Galaxy stars playing at the highest level and the great acquisition of Penedo will get the L.A. Galaxy back to the playoffs and perhaps MLS Cup.