Landon Donovan is returning to the LA Galaxy in late March, that much is assured, but when the MLS regular season starts on March 3, just what lineup will Bruce Arena trot out against the Chicago Fire.
Based on five preseason games and with two still remaining—against Club Tijuana on Feb. 19 and Colorado Rapids on Feb. 22— these are the lineups that I see as the most likely for opening day.
One of the major questions of the preseason remains just who partners with Omar Gonzalez in central defense. Both Tommy Meyer and A.J. DeLaGarza have started alongside Gonzalez this preseason and have enjoyed success alongside the reigning MLS Cup MVP.
This formation allows midfielder Michael Stephens to move out to the right side of midfield while Colin Clark is stationed on the left side. Clark has been very influential going into the attack in four starts on the left side and seemingly has a lock on the position. Meanwhile, Stephens remains his energetic self and has formed a solid partnership with Sean Franklin that provides an attacking presence but also bite on defense.
Up top, Mike Magee is expected to start alongside Robbie Keane. The Galaxy’s forward line has been depleted as of late after an injury to Gyasi Zardes has put the rookie forward on the shelf until April while Jose Villarreal remains on international duty with the U.S. U-20 and may not return in time for the season opener.
This starting lineup allows Arena to place both Meyer and DeLaGarza on the field at the same time while pushing Franklin up into right midfield. Both DeLaGarza and Franklin have held manned these positions in the past, but both admit that they are more comfortable in the defense.
And when Donovan returns to action, which is likely to happen sometime in April?
Following LA’s scoreless draw with K-League side Gangwon FC, Arena told reporters that Magee is likely to play more time in the midfield once the team reaches full health, which leads to this possible squad:
What is your ideal lineup? Who do you want to see start for the Galaxy on opening day? Or once Donovan returns?
Share your thoughts below…
We know that Landon Donovan will be returning to the LA Galaxy this year and now we know when.
The Galaxy issued a statement on Sunday stating that Donovan will be returning to the club during the last week of March. Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena had told reporters at the start of the preseason in January that he would return to the club at some point this year after a brief hiatus.
“After a series of collaborative discussions between Landon, his representative and our key club leaders, we have agreed to allow Landon to remain on an extended leave of absence and return to training with the team during the final week of March,” Galaxy General Manager and Head Coach Bruce Arena said in the statement. “We understand this arrangement is not ideal, but we are confident it will allow Landon the time he needs to be both mentally and physically prepared for the upcoming season. We remain focused on our preparation for the start of the 2013 season and look forward to Landon rejoining us next month.”
The announcement means that Donovan will miss LA's first three league matches and the entire CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series against Herediano. Donovan's return date also means that he will likely not factor in the U.S. national team's World Cup qualifying matches against Costa Rica on March 22 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park and against Mexico at Estadio Azteca on March 26.
What are your thoughts on Donovan returning at the end of the March? What is the lineup that the Galaxy use to start the season? Can they advance to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals without him?
Share your thoughts below.
LAGalaxy.com video man Paolo Ferrari has provided the following recap video of Saturday's scoreless draw with Gangwon FC.
Check it out below...
CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy continued their preseason preparations on Saturday by battling a new type of opponent, K-League side Gangwon FC to a scoreless draw.
LA dominated possession for much of the first half with the Koreans presenting an organized shape that proved difficult to break down. The best chances of the first half came in the 27th minute when a Juninho free kick set up a corner that eventually fell for Mike Magee, who fired the chance over the bar.
In the second half, the Koreans received more of the run of play, forcing Carlo Cudicini to make a pair of saves late. Gangwon nearly stole a win late however, when Kim Eun Jung rattled the post with a shot off a corner kick, but Cudicini collected the rebound preventing any further danger.
The full recap from the match can be found on LAGalaxy.com
A few notes from the match…
*The Galaxy started the match in the following formation:
*For the second straight match, Jack McBean and Mike Magee started up top with Robbie Keane still away attending to a family death in Ireland. With Landon Donovan still away from the club, it is looking increasingly likely that Magee may be the Galaxy's first choice strike partner alongside Keane once the season begins. However, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena told reporters that once the team is fully healthy, Magee will be used as a midfielder rather than as a forward.
*The match was the first time that A.J. DeLaGarza and Omar Gonzalez started together in central defense this preseason.
*Throughout the 90 minutes, Gangwon’s organization provided a test for LA. I spoke to Gonzalez and Magee afterward to get their perception of how facing a new style of play benefited the Galaxy.
*In the 47th minute, a Juninho free kick from nearly 20 yards out made contact with the head of Gangwon’s Denis Laktionov. The Gangwon midfielder was carted off the field by paramedics. Play resumed after an eight minute delay.
*LA ended the match with the following lineup on the field:
*Five players (Cudicini, Gonzalez, Sean Franklin, Todd Dunivant, and Mike Magee) went the full 90 minutes.
*Arena offered the following comments on the match: “It was a good exercise for us with the heat; it was a little challenging on guys. We pushed five guys to go 90 minutes for the first time this year and it was good. It was a little bit warmer than we thought it would be. I thought in the first half, we looked pretty sharp and moved pretty well. In the second half as we got fatigued, the quality started to disappear a bit, but that’s okay and it’s all part of the exercise of moving guys forward individually and as a team.”
CARSON, Calif. – Among the accomplished members on Bruce Arena’s LA Galaxy coaching staff, one of the most distinguished is goalkeeper coach Ian Feuer. After an impressive 14-year career that included stops across Europe and the United States, Feuer joined the Galaxy in 2007 as the club's goalkeeper coach and has held the position for six years.
This preseason, LA’s goalkeepers have drawn impressive reviews from the coaching staff and players as many have lauded new number one ‘keeper Carlo Cudicini for his poise and experience while backup Brian Perk has been labeled as one of the bright spots of training camp by Arena. Meanwhile, many have been impressed with the development of third string Brian Rowe, who is entering his second year as a professional.
I recently caught up with Feuer to discuss how his goalkeepers are performing this preseason and his perceptions of the three men between the pipes.
Check it out below…
(On how his goalkeepers are coming along this preseason…)
FEUER: It’s going really good. Obviously, I didn’t have Carlo last year and the only comparisons that I can make are on Fox Soccer Channel. But Perk has come along really well especially in the mental department. He’s a lot steady with decisions, his confidence, and everything. Meanwhile, the difference with Rowe is huge because all of the stuff that we worked on from last year to this year has come into fruition. I’m excited because they both have a lot of incredible potential and now that they can see someone like Carlo everyday who has been there and done that, it’s a great learning tool for him.
(On the way that Rowe has developed this preseason…)
FEUER: “Just maturity. Last year, he struggled with the pace of things and he’s getting used to the pace now, but [at 24] he’s still very young for a goalkeeper. He’s learning, but he has a really great attitude and is learning all the time.”
It’s great. Funny enough, I played against him a couple of times [in England]. To have someone of his stature and experience, it spreads throughout the whole team. I played with him when I was at West Ham and he was at Chelsea and I really liked him then because he’s calm and always has a great demeanor. That’s great to have around.”
CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy will take on K-League side Gangwon FC on Saturday in their fifth preseason match and final tune-up before taking on Club Tijuana on Feb. 19 at The Home Depot Center.
After limiting most players to 45 minutes stints during their previous preseason matches, head coach Bruce Arena promised additional minutes for starters against the K-League side.
“It’s another competition in the preseason, but as we get closer to March 3, they become more important. Tomorrow, we’ll try to give some extended minutes to some players and hopefully get them ready for [the season opener]. It’ll be important for building our team, individual fitness and tactical preparation for the opening game.”
A few other notes from Friday’s training session…
*The Brazilian duo of Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas manned central midfield in LA’s scrimmage against UCLA and are once again expected to fill the starting lineup on Saturday and going forward this season. On Friday, Sarvas admitted that while LA’s tactics have not changed for 2013, the players must learn to play with one another again: “It is the same system, but we have different players who have different skills so we have to get to know each other. We have to figure out how to learn to play together and those are things that we’re doing well this preseason.”
*Sarvas also offered his thoughts on LA’s pair of Brazilian trialists: “I just met them here. They’re young guys and I hope that they can make a good impression.”
*The biggest news of the day was the announcement by Robbie Rogers, who revealed that he is gay and is stepping away from soccer at the age of 25. Two of his former teammates A.J. DeLaGarza—Rogers’ teammate with Maryland—and Brian Perk – Rogers' teammate at the U.S. youth ranks — offered their thoughts and support to the Southern California native.
According to Real Salt Lake general manager Garth Lagerwey, his club and the LA Galaxy are close to a deal to send goalkeeper Josh Saunders rights to RSL.
After taking the reins as the Galaxy’s number one ‘keeper during the 2011 season, Saunders backstopped LA to back-to-back MLS Cup titles, but parted ways with the club during the offseason. Saunders has been on trial with RSL for the past two weeks and has impressed the Salt Lake brass.
"With the offseason moves we made, we are actually under the cap," Lagerwey told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. "It isn't a done deal, yet. We still have some negotiating to do to work a few things out, but I think Josh would be a great asset to our team if we can figure things out.
"Josh has been playing great," Lagerwey added. "He definitely provides a steady presence in goal, and this isn't a knock on Nick at all, but maybe it would be good for him to occasionally look over his shoulder at training and see someone pushing him.
Last week Galaxy head coach and general manager Bruce Arena told reporters that LA will support Saunders once he finds a new club.
CARSON, Calif. – A.J. DeLaGarza and Sean Franklin are no strangers to manning the LA Galaxy right flank, but after a successful stint out wide in Wednesday’s 7-2 preseason victory over UCLA, the position may just become common place for the pair in 2013.
During the match against UCLA, Sean Franklin was pushed up to right midfield while DeLaGarza slid from central defense out to right back. The move paid immediate dividends for LA as Franklin tallied two goals and both appeared active on both sides of the ball.
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena told reporters on Wednesday that the switch was in part due to Robbie Keane’s absence due to a death in his family, which forced Mike Magee to pair up front with Jack McBean. However with second year defender Tommy Meyer continuing to develop and LA searching for wide depth, DeLaGarza and Franklin may be tasked with moving out to the right flank more in 2013.
“I think that it is an option for us,” said DeLaGarza. ”We have a lot of good talent and to get everyone on the field, you have to make some changes. I thought I did well today and Sean obviously did well. It’s something that we’ve done plenty and we’re used to it.”
Franklin in particular was incredibly effective against UCLA as he displayed chemistry with LA’s central midfield tandem of Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas while also connecting well with LA’s forward corps to create chances.
“It’s still new to me even though I’ve played there in spurts throughout the years,” said Franklin. “It’s a position that I enjoy and it’s a spot that I want to get better at if I am going to play there more than at right back this year.”
If Arena opts to place DeLaGarza at right back and Franklin in the midfield to start the season, the duo admit that there will be a transition, but both are confident that they can adapt to a new role.
“I still feel that right back is my best position and my most comfortable position,” said Franklin. “From a right back position, you see the game a little bit more. At right midfield, the game comes faster because it’s all about being quick with your decision-making. It’s something that I want to get better at as a player and contribute more to the team”
Added DeLaGarza, “I just hope to be on the field no matter where it is and wherever I can help out. It’s a totally different position so I have to change my mindset and my fitness level and I have to get into the attack. If I play there and get more comfortable then it will be first nature, but right now I’m more of a defensive player.”
CARSON, Calif. -- Southern California native and former Leeds United winger Robbie Rogers made a brave statement on Friday by announcing that he is gay and is stepping away from the game at the age of 25.
The former Columbus Crew (2007-20011) and U.S. national team midfielder revealed the news on his personal website and shortly after his announcement, players, coaches, and fans from offered their support including Galaxy center back and former Maryland teammate A.J. DeLaGarza.
"He is one of the nicest kids that I've ever met. He's a great player and coming out is brave of him," said DeLaGarza. "To live like that for however long that he's known that has sure been tough, but he's happy now and we're all happy for him. All the support that he's gotten is great and it's going to make it that much easier on him...In college, he was one of the best players that I ever played with. The things that he can do with the ball are just amazing and he's had good years in Europe and MLS and is one of the best players that I've ever played with."
Brian Perk, who was teammates with Rogers with the U.S. Under-20 national team offered his own support and admitted that he'd be welcomed with open arms if he decided to return to MLS. Rogers' MLS rights were dealt to the Chicago Fire in a trade with the Crew last month.
"He was a great soccer player and a good guy. It's really disappointing because he's right in the prime of his career by playing at Leeds and I think that we'd like to have him here," said Perk. "Regardless of his personal preferences, as the player that I knew then we'd love to have him here. Maybe in some locker rooms would people be treated differently, but I don't think that he would here. I consider Robbie a friend and I don't care what he does in his private life."
CARSON, Calif. -- Supplemental Draft Pick Andy Riemer is no stranger to the LA Galaxy and the youngster is banking that his past experience with the club and his energy on the field can lead to an extended deal with LA.
Riemer has been close friends with Galaxy assistant coach Curt Onalfo since his early teens and that connection led the Georgetown product to several trips to Southern California to train with LA.