Hold the Line
Tommy Meyer Stepped Up, Saved the Galaxy's Season
When Omar Gonzalez was injured, Tommy Meyer wasn't ready. When A.J. DeLaGarza fell, the 22-year-old stepped in and showed his mettle. He could be the the key to the Galaxy's postseason hopes.
BY Andrew Lewellen PostedEditor's note: Hold the Line runs every Tuesday on ASN. It wasn’t an easy task: prevent Chris Wondolowski, the leading scorer in MLS this season, from getting a goal. But that’s what the L.A. Galaxy needed to do in their Western Conference Semifinal series against San Jose. The man they chose for the job wasn’t the 2011 MLS Defender of the Year, Omar Gonzalez. It was Tommy Meyer, a 22-year-old rookie who was filling in for the injured A.J. DeLaGarza. Heading into the series against San Jose, Meyer had only played nine games all season, but he was up for the job. He contained Wondo in the first leg in Los Angeles, which the Galaxy lost 1-0 when they gave up a goal on a weak free kick in injury time. In the return leg in San Jose—a 3-1 Galaxy victory—Meyer held Wondolowski to a handful shots, most of which he uncharacteristically blasted over the frame. L.A. won the series, and Meyer achieved his goal: He kept Chris Wondolowski from putting the ball in the net. The quality of his performance wasn’t lost on his teammates. Before the first leg of Western Conference Finals against Seattle on Sunday, David Beckham said: “Tommy steps in—and he’s done well other games—but coming up against the players that he did in San Jose he proved he’s matured a lot, and his performance was exceptional.” His performance against San Jose wasn’t all about defense, either. You can’t see it in the below video, but Meyer started the attack that led to the Galaxy’s second goal against San Jose, playing a long ball from the back to Landon Donovan on the right flank. He repeated Wednesday’s strong performance against Seattle on Sunday at the Home Depot Center. In L.A.’s 3-0 win, Meyer helped shut down Fredy Montero, holding him to only a single shot all game, then, when Eddie Johnson, came on for Montero in the second half, Meyer prevented him from taking a single shot, often forcing Johnson to receive the ball 30 or 40 yards from goal with his back to Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders. After Sunday’s game, Galaxy General Manager and Head Coach Bruce Arena said: “Our young players have really improved. We have a lot of good depth at a lot of positions.” He was clearly referencing Meyer, the only rookie who played the full 90 minutes against Seattle. Meyer’s recent success came after a long season of learning and struggling. Meyer—who played college ball at Indiana University—started four games early in the season, stepping in for the injured Omar Gonzalez. During this time the Galaxy struggled: Through their first 11 games, they had only 4 wins. In early May, Meyer lost his starting spot to David Junior Lopes. When Gonzalez returned to the lineup in July, Meyer was the odd man out. He was left to train, play in U.S. Open Cup matches, MLS reserve games, and CONCACAF Champions League competitions. Meyer counts Gonzalez as a key mentor in his development. “Omar’s had a big role in it," he said. "From the beginning of the season, I struggled a little bit, made a couple mistakes. Even when he was out, he was helping me along. ‘You just gotta be confident,’ that was his main advice. I took that and really worked my ass off to get what the coaches wanted.” And he apparently gave them what they wanted. Meyer made his first appearance in an MLS game in almost five months when he came on for an injured A.J. DeLaGarza in a September 30th match against the Colorado Rapids. He hasn’t left the lineup since, and given his performance in the playoffs, he probably won’t. Down to L.A. 3-0 ahead of the second leg of the conference finals on Sunday, Seattle will likely attack with abandon. They’ll throw all their offensive talent at the Galaxy back line: Montero, Johnson, Mario Martinez, Brad Evans. Meyer will be up against another big test, one likely even harder than the second match of the conference semis against San Jose. If he’s up to the task, he and the rest of the Galaxy will find themselves back in the MLS Cup on December 1st, one win away from repeating as MLS Cup Champions. And Meyer, this kid out of Indiana, will have one more job to do this season. If he does it well, he’ll likely hoist the MLS Cup, a well-earned achievement after a long season of losses and lessons.
November 13, 2012
November 13, 2012