View from the Booth

Galaxy Analyst Mark Rogondino looks at Saturday's game against the unbeaten Crew

ricketts vs columbus - 2009

Photo Credit: 
Robert Mora

I
know that I am in the majority when I say I can’t wait to see how the game
unfolds at Columbus Crew Stadium on Saturday night.  It really is the first marquee matchup of the
young MLS season.  The top teams in their
respective conferences, the only two teams to have yet to taste defeat this
season, and it also is the last place the Galaxy were defeated in regular
season play, a 2-0 loss in late September 2009. 
It sets up to be an early season playoff game. 

If
you are wondering, the Galaxy do not have a great record at Crew Stadium, recording
just one win in the venue, and that came in 2007, when goals by Kyle Martino
and Troy Roberts, of all people, was enough for LA to grab the three points.
Add it the 2001 MLS Cup defeat to San
Jose and the 2002 Open Cup Final defeat to the Crew
and the difficulty of this weekend’s task is further magnified.

The
two teams are actually similar to this point in the season.  In addition to both clubs being unbeaten, if
you read the comments of the Crew players, they echo some of what the Galaxy
players have said to me over the past few weeks.  Phrases like ‘We are not playing our best
soccer, but we are making the most of our chances,’ are commonplace in both
locker rooms. That said, I would imagine there are a few MLS clubs out there
that would argue that point. 

For
Columbus, they
have been getting goals from set pieces, and the scoring load recently has
started to come from other players outside of Guillermo Barros Schelotto.  When you look at the Galaxy, they just make
it difficult for opponents to score on them…period.  Case in point, they have only surrendered two
goals all season, and have yet to have to pick the ball out of their own net
when away from The HDC.  For the record,
the Crew has only given up two goals in four games at home this season.

Like
the Galaxy, Columbus
lost two players over the past weeks to the U.S. National Team preliminary
roster.  But in contrast to LA, the Crew
will be receiving both Robbie Rogers and Chad
Marshall back
for this weekend’s game as neither player was included in Bob Bradley’s 23-man final
roster.  It will be interesting to see
what frame of mind the two are in returning to MLS play.

Speaking
of Bob Bradley and the World Cup roster, huge props to Landon Donovan and Edson
Buddle for making the final squad.  Yes,
we all knew that Landon was going to be there, but for Edson to parlay his
early scoring success in MLS, into a trip to South
Africa to play for the U.S., well, it is the stuff that
dreams or even movies are made of.  As
much as Galaxy fans will miss seeing the #10 and #14 running up and down the
pitch for the club over the next month, just think how exciting it will be to
see those same guys wearing the Red, White and Blue in South Africa.

Let’s
get back to the matchup for Saturday. 
The Crew has very good attacking play from wide positions on the
field.  Eddie Gaven, Emmanuel Ekpo and
Robbie Rogers all bring the ability to face defenders and run with the ball at
their feet.  This translates to the
Galaxy outside backs doing a lot of running, and even further they must
communicate with the midfielders that will play in front of them.  There will be a lot of interchange between
the wide players on both sides. 

Centrally,
Guillermo Barros Schelotto has a free roll all over the field.  It is amazing how this Argentine can still be
so dangerous on the field.  Let’s be
honest, he is not the youngest guy out there, yet he finds space, plays magical
passes to teammates, and leads the team with four goals in seven games this
year.  If the Galaxy can get physical
with Schelotto early in the match, along with limit the number of freekick
chances the Crew get in the final third of the field, it will go along way
toward keeping the unbeaten run alive. 
On the contrary, if Schelotto is finding space to receive the ball, specifically
in the midfield, he can pick apart LA’s defense with his pinpoint passing.  While the Crew have plenty of other scoring
options to look to on the field, Schelotto is the most dangerous individual
player, and the catalyst for a Crew win.   

Hope
you will have the opportunity to tune in on Saturday evening on FS West.  In addition to some of the points above,
there will be plenty to discuss throughout the course of the match.  It is possible we will uncover some answers,
and some new questions might rise.  At
the end of the 90 minutes, I hope to still be in that majority… celebrating
another Galaxy victory.