Rogo: Philly not to be taken lightly

Rogondino shines the spotlight on the Galaxy’s newest rival, the Philadelphia Union. LA Galaxy

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The Galaxy
are still perfect after five matches in the 2010 season, well nearly
perfect.  Even though LA was held
scoreless in their last match, a 0-0 draw at Kansas City, I think many players and fans
will come away feeling that was a fair result. It was one of those draws that
felt like a win.

Why you
might ask?  Playing on the road in
horrible weather, on a slick and small field usually is an equation for disaster.  Add to that, LA nearly went down a goal 15
minutes into the match, only to see Kei Kamara’s miraculous miss from six
inches out.  By the way, credit to the
refs for staying with the play to the end and making the correct call. And I am
not just saying that because I call the games for the Galaxy.

To come
back to LA with a point from the match, and keep the unbeaten run going here
early in the MLS season, somewhat gives you an indication of how solid this
team can be.

A new
opponent for the Galaxy steps onto the pitch Saturday night in the Philadelphia
Union, but Galaxy fans will recognize some of the faces on the newest addition
to MLS.  Defensively, the Union are led
by former Galaxy and Maryland
standout, Danny Califf.  The Galaxy
selected Califf in the 2000 MLS SuperDraft and he was a force in defense for LA
for several seasons, before joining the San Jose Earthquakes.  In the midfield, Philly boasts Stefani
Miglioranzi, whom they took in the expansion draft this past offseason.  Miglioranzi originally joined the Galaxy in
2006, but made his biggest impact when he returned to the club last year
helping LA during the regular season and its MLS Cup run.  The final face that many fans will not only
recognize but also smile to see is Venezuelan International, Alejandro
Moreno.  Always a fan-favorite during his
time in LA, Moreno
has made a few stops with other MLS clubs since he left the Galaxy, but still
remains a very dangerous player around the penalty area.

At first
glance this looks like a game that the Galaxy should not have a tough time
with.  The Union is playing their fourth road game of
the season and has yet to secure a point in any of the previous three.  The Galaxy is playing very good soccer, and return
to their home turf where they are a perfect 3-0-0. 

But, as we
have seen so many times in the past, just when one might think you have it all
figured out, the complete opposite happens. 
I don’t want to go quite as far as to call this a “trap game,” but
Philadelphia Head Coach Peter Nowak is going to be pressing his side to
perform, and at least earn a point from this match.  After a recent Open Cup loss, Nowak even had
his team out on the field running sprints after the game because he was so dissatisfied
by their performance.  In contrast to
what I said about the Galaxy last week (and mentioned above about playing on
the road) a point would be a disappointment for LA after 90 minutes this
weekend.  

Quick Hits

Bruce Arena made one change to the lineup last weekend, bringing
in Gregg Berhalter to replace the injured Leonardo in central defense, a move
that pushed A.J. DeLaGarza to right back in place of the injured Sean Franklin. 
Berhalter played well under the wet conditions, but looked like he was
still trying to recovery from an injury of his own, as well as regain his match
fitness.

Edson Buddle was held scoreless for the first time this season,
and that brings up the question of which players will take on the scoring load
when the league’s leading scorer is held in check?  This week Danny Califf will be physically
matching up with Buddle, so it will be tough for Edson to find much room to
operate.

LA needs to
improve and become even more difficult to defend against on its set
pieces.  Yes, Edson
Buddle has scored three of his seven goals with his head, but
other players have had chances of their own to finish off of corner or dead
ball service and been off the mark.  With
some of the big bodies on the Galaxy, defenses are forced to man mark inside
the area and players are going to get free and find chances. It is just a
matter of finishing them off.

In the
absence of Dema Kovalenko, Chris Birchall is starting to find his stride.  After a couple of average performances to
begin the season, Birchall has not only become a regular in the starting
lineup, but he has locked down the central midfield, allowing Juninho and
Landon Donovan extra freedom to roam and start the attack. Birchall has also
shown a willingness to shoot from distance but now has to get a few of those
shots on target to challenge goalkeepers. He scored a great goal in the
preseason against Puntarenas with a similar effort. Hopefully we will see the
same in a regular season game soon.

In the
past, the Galaxy has had a great record against expansion clubs when they
welcome new teams to the HDC, winning seven of the 10 previous encounters.  So, I say that we roll out the welcome mat
for the Union, and be sure to let them know whose turf they are on before
sending them packing back to Philadelphia
after 90 minutes— still without a point from their travels.