Scouting report: What to expect from a surging Los Angeles side in Sunday night's MLS match
It’s been a slow start to the season for the Los Angeles Galaxy earning only its third win of the season courtesy of a 2-1 win over Western Conference foe FC Dallas Wednesday night.
Sounds good to catch a slow burning club at the right time, but the Galaxy (3-3-3, 12 points) are no sleepers.
We are talking about the same Los Angeles side that hasn’t missed an MLS postseason since 2009 and one that even with key pieces out of the lineup look formidable and threatening led by talismanic striker Robbie Keane.
The Galaxy is first up in a weeklong West Coast jaunt for the Union who visit the StubHub Center for a Sunday night showdown (8 p.m., Comcast SportsNet; Univision Deportes Network). The Union has found success against the Galaxy in their home – getting the better of head coach Bruce Arena’s side, 2-1 on July 4, 2012, the last time Philadelphia played LA in LA.
Graphic: A look at the projected Los Angeles Galaxy lineup and formation for Sunday night's match (8 p.m., CSN)
And yes, when it was still known as the Home Depot Center.
In Arena’s 4-4-2 formation, the catalyst has been Brazilian midfielder Juninho. Sure, Keane gets the goals, currently with six on the season and scoring his 40th in an MLS match against Dallas earlier this week, but Juninho is the orchestrator, great in tight spaces, even better vision and is this club’s true playmaker, especially with the loss of Landon Donovan, currently vying to find his name on the roster representing the United States in the upcoming FIFA World Cup. In fact, only Juninho and Keane have played in every match for LA this season, with Keane logging every minute of MLS play (810 minutes) this season. The Galaxy are dangerous from the flanks, with midfielders Stefan Ishizaki (right) and Gyasi Zardes (left) pushing into the attack. Look for Zardes, a big frame with good feet to pinch into the center of the pitch to help out Keane. It was Zardes, who netted the game winner for LA against Dallas and provided the assist on Keane’s goal. Then you have either midfielder Baggio Husidic or Kenney Walker that act as silent killers. Up top, Arena has the option to play Brazilian forward Samuel or Canadian striker Rob Friend. On Wednesday, former Union forward Chandler Hoffman cracked the game day 18-man roster for Los Angeles too.
This group, young and athletic has their flaws and have been a large reason why Arena’s team is battling to get out of the Western Conference basement. Kofi Opare and Tommy Meyer held down the center defense in Wednesday’s match, but the Galaxy is waiting on the return of defensive mainstay Todd Dunivant, who is still nursing an abdominal strain. Out wide, Dan Gargan has had a great year for Los Angeles as its new right back, but Gargan got exposed for his slow first step by Dallas’ Fabian Castillo which could benefit the Union by putting someone explosive to exploit Gargan on the wing. A.J. DeLaGarza holds down the left side and has started in six MLS matches this season, expect the 26-year-old DeLaGarza to be doing the same on Sunday. Defensively, the Galaxy are missing the services of Omar Gonzalez, also apart of U.S. Soccer’s preliminary 30-man roster and like Dunivant, Marcelo Sarvas (MCL strain) is out with injury as well. Lastly, goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, while he doesn’t look like much compared to the giants that used to tend net for the Galaxy is solid. In 16 MLS starts since joining the Galaxy last season, he’s allowed just 14 goals, for a 0.89 average.
Exploiting the Galaxy’s weakness – and there are a few – must be the plan of attack for Union manager John Hackworth and his staff. Taking a healthy Union out West means plenty of options to choose from in a quest to kick off the West Coast trip with three points. Keeping a close eye on Keane and not giving Juninho time and space to roam and create opportunities is paramount. Lastly, the Galaxy are extremely good when they go ahead. In nine MLS matches this season, the Galaxy has scored the first goal five times and in that span have compiled an undefeated 3-0-2 record. If the Union can nab that first goal, it could a lot to disrupt LA’s collective psyches.
What are your thoughts on this Galaxy team? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org