The Blue Testament asks LAG Confidential...
1) The Los Angeles defense has been strong this season, giving up the least amount of goals on the year. How will the absences of Dan Gargan and Omar Gonzales affect the back line?
Omar Gonzalez has only played in six matches this season, so his continued absence isn't going to affect LA all that much. Bruce Arena due to injuries and absences has had to keep a steady rotation of players at various defensive positions, so it's quite remarkable that they have been so consistent despite a lack time to get comfortable at a position.
Robbie Rogers returning to the match day roster should do well to cover Dan Gargan's absence, with A.J. DeLaGarza sliding over to cover the other fullback position. That likely means Arena sticks with his center back pairing from Wednesday with Leonardo and Tommy Meyer, or perhaps Kofi Opare comes back in. There's plenty of depth with regards to the center back position. They each have their flaws, perhaps Leonardo's flaws are best known, but as a whole the center back platoon has shown up to the task this season.
Some of that has to be down to the leadership of Jaime Penedo and A.J. DeLaGarza, the two consistent presences in the starting lineup.
2) The Galaxy haven't lost in league play since mid-May. What's stood out as strengths during this unbeaten run and how will the Galaxy use said strengths against Sporting KC?
The defense is the main strength, with the club grinding out a number of 1-0 victories. In the attack the surprise strength has been the play of Gyasi Zardes. Finding out how to properly deploy him has been an issue since he became a team regular. As a forward last season he took too many shots, and as a winger his speed was a weapon but making a move in the final third was often an issue.
This season he's starting to play more like Manchester United's Chicharito. He uses his speed to find space in the box, and doesn't try to put much power on his shots; just gently tap it in. His second goal against New England was exactly that, a long diagonal run to find the space Robbie Keane needed him to be in.
He also had a great take on from a defender that resulted in a pedestrian shot. When he's coming from deep he's better off finding a pass target, but when he's not given the time to overthink things he's so quick that many defenders can't hang with him.
3) After Keane broke his scoreless drought on Wednesday, do you see a resurgence from him coming as the season moves on?
Robbie Keane is going to get goals, but even during his goal drought he was finding players for assists. He has six assists on the season to go with his fifth best in the league nine goals.
He'll get his goals, but if there is something worrying from Wednesday's burst it's that he had to create his own goal scoring opportunities while also setting up Zardes. Right now, Landon Donovan is playing more of a control role in the midfield, and the midfield is serving more as facilitator to the forwards who have to create their own chances.
Part of this is Bruce Arena's constant futzing with the shape of the midfield. If a personnel group and a shape can get locked down, I expect more key passes to come from the midfield again.
LAG Confidential asks The Blue Testament...
1) Aurelien Collin's red card has been rescinded. Were you surprised at the news?
Not at all. I was shocked when Collin was given a red card for the foul when in real time it looked like a normal header. Going and looking at the replays confirmed my original thought when it revealed that Collin's arms were going in a natural motion, his eyes were on the ball and that he didn't look for positioning before going up. Collin also has one of the better aerials for a defender, so he was able to get a lot higher in the jump, which put his arm near Adam Bedell's face. It was not malicious and it was not intentional. That, plus the fact that it was the fourth official who ended up making the case for the red card when the center ref didn't even whistle for a foul originally made it a no-brainer for the discipline committee.
2) Matt Besler seems to have one foot out the door. With the transfer window open, how long until a deal gets done? And who replaces him?
Those rumors have actually seemed to swing to the opposite end of the spectrum. An article came out yesterday with quotes from Besler's agent saying that he has a desire to stay in Kansas City and a quote saying that talks for a contract extension were in an advanced stage. This has brought a lot of optimism to Kansas City and it seems like it's a matter of time before an extension is done, although I wouldn't be surprised if they wait until after the new CBA.
To answer your original question in case Besler does end up going to Europe, the in-house replacement for Besler would be Lawrence Olum. Olum started the year off as the second backup to the center back position, but moved up to the primary backup with the season-ending injury to Ike Opara. Behind him is Kevin Ellis and Erik Palmer-Brown, who are fine replacements but not necessarily options they want for a full season yet.
3) Did Graham Zusi fall into the trap of looking ahead to the World Cup in the first half? Will he return to the lineup Sat?
I don't think so. Although the statistics don't really tell the story for him, he was still a very productive player for Sporting Kansas City. His ability to create on the wing led to a lot of defensive pressure being put on him, which allowed Dom Dwyer and whoever was on the other wing to get free. Just looking at the way offensive production fell off in the matches while he was in camp and at the World Cup are enough indication as to what he brings offensively to Sporting Kansas City.
Yes, he will be playing Saturday. He started Saturday against Montreal and was given the midweek game against Columbus off so that he could rest for this match.