CARSON -- David Beckham knows what the Galaxy needs to do to turn around this disaster of a season and start a steady climb toward their rightful place among Major League Soccer's trophy contenders.
“We're champions,” he said on the eve of Wednesday night's Home Depot Center showdown with the San Jose Earthquakes. “And we need to start playing and walking on the field like champions, instead of walking on the field thinking because we're champions, we just have to turn up.”
It's different phrasing, but the sentiment hasn't changed over 11 weeks. L.A. started poorly and, but for moments here and halves there, have continued to play far below its standard. The Galaxy (3-6-2) already have lost more MLS games than all of last season and sit at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, 15 points -- five victories -- off the lead.
The Galaxy have two more matches before the league takes two weekends off for international fixture dates, and if they're going to start righting things before then, they'll have to do so without captain Landon Donovan and star striker Robbie Keane, who are away until mid-June -- perhaps later for Keane -- with their national teams.
What that means, exactly, is hard to say. Keane has not played well and is dealing with a hamstring injury that would have kept him out of Wednesday's game regardless. Donovan has been up and down, not to his usual level.
Head coach Bruce Arena took a sly swipe their way when discussing San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski, MLS's goals leader, who is with Donovan in the U.S. national team camp in Orlando, Fla. Asked how much his absence might affect the Earthquakes, Arena said: “He's a good player, and he's been playing well. If you have good players that aren't playing well and you're losing, perhaps it's not as much.”
He then was asked whether his team will miss Donovan and Keane.
“It hasn't the last five games or so,” Arena said. “I mean, when you haven't done well and you lose a player, you can't be crying about it. ... No one questions the quality of Robbie and Landon, but we don't have any results to show it's going to be a loss we can't overcome.”
Defender Todd Dunivant says he thinks it's not necessarily a negative, that the Galaxy will have to be more proactive without their stars.
“Guys are going to have to step up to the plate,” he said. “We need that kind of responsibility to be put on other players, and everyone on this team needs to step it up a little bit. It's not one or two guys need to pick up their game, it's everybody needs to raise their game.
“Sometimes having absences like this help you because guys have to step up and the responsibility is put on them.”
Anything that works would be wonderful. The Galaxy are winless in their last five games -- their longest such streak since tying five in a row in May 2009. The current streak includes three losses, all by shutout.
Something is wrong, Arena has admitted somewhat cryptically. Last week, while in the capital for the White House gathering, he told The Washington Post he has “a lot of understanding why our issues to date have been what they are, but that’s not anything I will make public right now. I have a very good sense why.” He said the same to reporters Monday at HDC.
Even Beckham, generally a glass-half-full kind of guy, admits he is starting to become worried about the Galaxy's fate.
“It's getting to that point now, yeah,” he said. “It's not been good for awhile now, and the only way we can get ourselves out of this is work hard on the training field. ... Teams go through difficult times, but it's too much now. We can play bad and have the effort, but sometimes there's not the effort either.
“We need to get that back in the game and start working and the run we're on will change. ... I'm a positive person, so I believe we're going to get ourselves out of this run that we're in.”
Dunivant admits he couldn't envision the Galaxy being where they stand this deep into the season.
“I guess anything can happen. That's what you've got to understand about this league,” he said. “The good thing is anything can happen. We can't get these 11 games back, but we can do something about the next 23. That's how we have to look at it.”
WORTH NOTING: Keane is with Ireland preparing for the European Championship. Galaxy forward Jack McBean also is gone, with the U.S. under-18s for a tournament in Portugal. ... A.J. DeLaGarza has been added to the injury report as questionable because of a bruised heel. Fellow center back David Junior Lopes is suspended after his red card Saturday in the loss to Chivas USA. ... The Galaxy lead the all-time series with San Jose, 32-18-10. That includes a 25-15-8 mark in MLS regular-season games, with a 4-1 edge in shootouts during the first years of the league. L.A. is is 4-3-3 (3-0-1 at HDC) since San Jose returned to the league in 2008 after a two-year absence. ... The Quakes, of course, won the biggest showdown in the series, in the 2001 MLS Cup title game. Maybe more devastating for the Galaxy was a first-round playoff loss in 2003, when San Jose rallied in the second leg from a four-goal aggregate deficit to claim a 5-4 victory. ... KWHY's Spanish-language coverage has been pushed back to a 10:30 p.m. start.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
Head coach: Frank Yallop.
Key players: F Chris Wondolowski, M Marvin Chavez, M Simon Dawkins, M Tressor Moreno, M Khari Stephenson, F Steven Lenhart, M Sam Cronin, D Ramiro Corrales.
Local guys: Lenhart (Yorba Linda/Azusa Pacific), M Rafael Baca (Lawndale/Loyola Marymount), F Cesar Diaz Pizarro (Chino Hills/UC Riverside), F/M Sam Garza (UC Santa Barbara), plus former Galaxy/Chivas USA forward Alan Gordon and former Chivas defender Jason Hernandez.
Update: The Quakes (7-2-3) were the best team in the league a month ago when in the midst of a seven-game unbeaten streak, six of them victories, that took them atop the Supporters' Shield standings. Chavez's hamstring injury has taken some of the punch from the attack, and San Jose has followed a loss in Vancouver with would be losses the past two weekends to Chivas USA and Columbus, rallying for late draws in both through Gordon. Wondolowski has been sensational, with a league-best 11 (after 18 and 16 the past two seasons), but he's not here. Lenhart's gritty work up front and Englishman Dawkins' creativity in midfield are pivotal.
Out: D Andrew Boyens (sports hernia), D Omar Gonzalez (left ACL tear).
Questionable: D A.J. DeLaGarza (right heel bruise), D Leonardo (right ACL/LCL tears).
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
Out: M Joey Gjertsen (right knee surgery), M Shea Salinas (broken left clavicle), D Tim Ward (left non-specific soft-tissue injury).
Questionable: D Victor Bernardez (left knee MCL sprain), M Marvin Chavez (left hamstring strain)
Home Depot Center (Carson), 7:30 p.m.
Referee: Jair Marrufo
TV: KDOC/Channel 56 (English) and KWHY/Channel 22 (Spanish, 10:30 p.m.)
Radio: ESPN Deportes (KWKW-AM/1330, Spanish)