Sporting Kansas City are prepared to face LA Galaxy at 3 pm CT on Saturday afternoon this weekend in what is setting up to be a mouth-watering fixture between possibly the two best teams in the league, and this one could turn out to be a delight for the neutral observers. But Sporting KC fans will be wanting to dig a little deeper into LA Galaxy's team before the big clash on Saturday. Below you will see my weekly Three Questions segment. This time I talk with LAG Confidential about Omar Gonzalez's injury, their shock 3-1 loss to New England, and some LA Galaxy players that most SKC fans might not be familiar with.
You can check out my answers to LAG Confidential's questions here.
1.Obviously LA is full of superstars like David Beckham, Robbie Keane, and Landon Donovan. We all know they are superb soccer players and are some of the best players in the league. But are there any guys in the squad that the average MLS fan might not know about that could also play a big role in Saturday's game at LSP?
The Galaxy have been using the core of this lineup for over a year now, which makes this question a bit tough. I think when asked who will play a big role, it's implied that it's someone unheralded that can rise to the challenge. Well the lynchpin of the Galaxy right now is that center back position, so I think SKC fans should hone in the play of either Andrew Boyens or Tommy Meyer in the second Center Back spot. How that position goes has been how the team goes thus far in competition. Really, I'm gonna end up hitting on both your questions with this first one, so apologies if I get repeaty. Because it's not just that center back position, it's the center midfield's interaction with the CBs. Which is why my real answer to this question is Michael Stephens. Last week against New England, David Beckham and highly touted offseason signing Marcelo Sarvas were taken off for Mike Magee and Michael Stephens. Reason being, that space between the midfield and backs was just wide open. Michael Stephens plays a more defensively minded midfielder, like Beckham does when he can rely on Landon Donovan getting the ball forward. It's Stephens that's going to have to take over for Beckham when he leaves (unless they outsource the position again) and I think he has the talent to do it. If he doesn't start, he'll come in if things are too open in the middle.
2. Arguably MLS' best center back in the way of Omar Gonzalez has been out injured for the Galaxy. How long will it be until he's back to full fitness and do you think he's part of the reason LA have looked more susceptible at the back than usual?
So yes, the Galaxy have looked quite susceptible in the middle. It comes down to two factors, playing way too deep which has burnt the Galaxy on crosses and getting beat on the run. Gonzalez is both quick and tall, and his presence on crosses is sorely missed. Meyer still has some difficulty taking direction from Josh Saunders, and it's really hard to get a read on Andrew Boyens. Meanwhile, A.J. DeLaGarza is thrust into a leadership role in the back, and while he might grow into it, doesn't seem like that's happened just yet. Tim Leiweke and Bruce Arena both said recently August is a current target date. The physical recovery is going to take months, but I think he'll be back as soon as his leg will allow him too. Keep in mind the Galaxy have another good and injured center back in Leonardo. He started the year on the DL, so he won't be available until six matches in, but he could go a long way to shoring up the back line.
3. I can't let you go without asking this. Last week Los Angeles shockingly lost at home to the New England Revolution 3-1. Obviously I think it's been on a lot of SKC minds, but what exactly caused the astonishing defeat to a supposed bottom feeder like New England?
Bruce Arena said after the match that he would have changed all eleven players if he could have, and I tend to agree. The team came out with no life, then played like it, then were surprised they were down. That middle between the levels was just terribly porous, which was directly responsible for the second New England goal and those issues in the back contributed to the first. Then going from mid to forward, Robbie Keane and Edson Buddle are both poachers who need a midfielder to get them the ball. They aren't a (to throw out a name) Landon Donovan type who will get back to make a defensive stop and go meet the midfielders to get a play started. In fact, the best forwards are the ones you could also have play midfield and they're just as effective (see: Gomez, Herculez). Which is why I think the Galaxy flubbed in getting Edson Buddle back but that's another conversation.
Anyhow, point being that because of the way things in the offseason, Arena sort of just threw a lineup together on paper. Then they have two weeks off and some changes are made, but Donovan gets hurt and instead of making more changes it felt like Arena just plugged the hole. As I mentioned when talking about Stephens, Beckham will go back and join the defensive line, but then that makes Donovan the playmaker in the offensive half. Without Donovan, Beckham went full offensive, but Juninho and now Sarvas are always in that mode. Plugging the Donovan hole with Paolo Cardozo didn't work because Cardozo doesn't create offense, he just dribbles pretty until he's lost.