Kiss Up, Kick Down

It was all going so well there for minute. Five goals against Dallas, five goals against Chivas USA, Donovan and Beckham not merely productive but could just smell the crow cooking. Then pear-shaped it all went, as Yoda would say if he were Kevin Keegan.

Like most houses of cards, it was such a little thing that caused the collapse. The two crucial mistakes made in the offseason were (a) signing Alvaro Pires and (b) one of the following: (1) acquiring Greg Vanney or (2) retaining Abel Xavier. The other mistakes Leiweke/Lalas/Bravo made were survivable, although monstrously huge. A lot of time and effort was wasted on Celestine Babayaro, for example, but his place has been filled adequately by MLS standards by Jazic, Randolph and so forth. A lot of money is being taken up by Carlos Ruiz, but Edson Buddle up and revived his career.

Pires was supposed to answer the Peter Vagenas question. Nowadays, the depth chart at d-mid reads something like McDonald, Vagenas, Franchino, then Pires. The Galaxy are horribly weak at a position where nearly every other team in the league is either fairly strong or very, very strong. Running a Dutch possession style while being mutilated in midfield week in and week out was asking for trouble - trouble Pires was supposed to prevent.

Then there was the central defender issue, which by rights should be even worse. Bravo or Jones or both managed to find Sean Franklin, who by opening day was the Galaxy's best defender. Starting rookies in the back line, even really good rookies, costs you goals, no matter who the guy is. If either Vanney or Xavier had played the position at a slightly below league average level, the Galaxy are comfortably in first place. First place in a lousy division, granted, but first place nonetheless.

Steve Cronin has taken more than a tiny bit of heat this year, but while he's not getting a bum rap, he's definitely getting a rap that is going through a couple of, you know, "programs," maybe spending a few days or weeks at a friend's place, maybe living in his car now and then, but just needs a break or two. Guess who has the most saves in the league. No, it's Jon Busch. (Wow, Sigi was way wrong about him being washed up. But this isn't about him.) Cronin is tied for second with Kevin Hartman. Now, guess who has faced the most shots in the league. Cronin, by fourteen - pretty much an extra game's worth.

("Um, if he's faced that many more shots, shouldn't he have even more saves than Hartman and Busch?")

I didn't say he was Bob Freaking Rigby, I'm saying he's been consistently betrayed, week in and week out, by the worst defense to take the field in the league, certainly since 2005. Onstad and Guzan faced fewer shots all last year than Cronin already has. I think shots faced tells you a lot. That's not a goalkeeping stat, that's a possession and defending stat. Two areas that the Galaxy brain trust has tried repeatedly to address over the past couple of years, and has repeatedly failed at on a Homeric scale. They didn't need great players, or even good ones. They just needed to avoid horrible ones.

But that's been the Galaxy's problem since the 2002 MLS Cup. They've been fighting fire with kerosene, building mousetraps out of cheese, and trying to blow down the walls of Jericho with a kazoo.

This should be Tim Leiweke's last chance to make any personnel decisions connected with the Galaxy. His last intelligent hire for the team was probably Doug Hamilton. I think he should let Bravo and Payne do their jobs, give Cobi the rest of this season and the next, before he does anything else. Hopefully he doesn't take the pundits' advice and brings in someone like Arena or Nowak. If he does, though, he'd better be prepared to leave when they do.

Steve Davis pictured MLS writers rushing to their thesauruseses - but the winner was local boy Nick Green, whose entire opening on the topic was a series of dick jokes. I think I speak for every fan when I salute Nick Green as a fine American and great humanitarian.