Thank goodness we will be getting back to MLS play. The Galaxy will put their 12 match unbeaten run on the line Wednesday night against the Columbus Crew and I have to think for the players this is an opportunity to refocus on what is important heading into the remainder of the year.
Let me explain. While it is exciting (for both players and fans) to match up with some of the best players on the planet, as LA did this past week taking on Real Madrid, at the end of the day the game is still an exhibition.
In addition, the Galaxy began the year in three competitions and after being ousted by Seattle in the U.S. Open Cup last week, the attention can be divided into two for the next four months, between the MLS regular season and the CONCACAF Champions League. Even if you are the Galaxy, you can’t expect, much less have enough energy, to win everything.
WATCH: Match Preview
Wednesday’s match will be the first of two meetings with the Crew this season. LA swept the Crew in the two games in 2010, and in fact Columbus has not had much success facing the Galaxy at The HDC in the past few years. But… this is a much better Columbus team in 2011. Some of the players such as Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Gino Padula and of course Frankie Hejduk (now with the Galaxy) are gone, but Andres Mendoza, Jeff Cunningham, Emmanuel Ekpo and Robbie Rogers have picked up the slack. The Crew enter Wednesday’s game with just one loss in their last five MLS matches. The good news for the Galaxy is that Columbus is not an overwhelming offensive side and they have had trouble putting the ball into the back of the net this season. In the 19 games the Crew have played, only twice have they scored more than two goals in a game.
Although the Galaxy have gone 12 games without a defeat in MLS play, it has been a run that has come with a price. Injuries, suspensions and grinding out matches have been the talking points, rather than the success of the team. The latest suspension is to midfielder Chris Birchall, after his tackle on Patrick Nyarko in the 2-1 win against Chicago. No question it was a bad tackle from Birchall, but the fact that he received just a yellow from the referee and then the league goes back and gives the player a two-game suspension, plus a fine does not seem to add up to me.
On the injury front, Galaxy fans should be concerned that Omar Gonzalez is dinged up again. After hardly missing a minute in his first two campaigns, Gonzalez has a broken nose and might be out of the line-up this week. Sean Franklin is also listed as questionable for this week’s game with a hamstring injury and the same is true of David Beckham’s status due to the back injury. Expect that to be the same for the remainder of the year, due to the nature of the injury. What is so concerning is that with 13 regular season games left, one would hope that LA is getting healthy, starting to mesh and extend their lead at the top of the Western Conference. Instead, there seem to be more questions than answers.
Following Wednesday’s game, the Galaxy will have three consecutive games against teams in the West, so you know this will be a crucial stretch to either widen the gap in the table, or discover that there are numerous things not right if LA wants to do some damage in the postseason. Having personally seen Seattle this past week, I can tell you that this is a team that not just knows how to attack, but knows how to do it in a variety of ways. Although the Galaxy have a longer unbeaten run to date, the Sounders are hotter right now in my opinion. Thus Wednesday’s game is important for LA not only to continue their unbeaten run, but also to grab another valuable three points and maintain a four-point cushion in front of the Sounders.
Columbus is a team that will come out strong in the opening minutes of the game, but if the Galaxy match that intensity and play well early, they should be able to accomplish their primary goal, getting another win.