View from the Booth

Galaxy get back to work north of the border

Dunivant vs TFC

Photo Credit: 
Robert Mora

Time
to get back to the business of winning MLS games. 

The
LA Galaxy will try to do exactly that on Saturday evening in one of the
toughest road environments in the league, BMO Field in Toronto. 
The Reds are riding a five-game winning streak in MLS, with their last
loss coming in the first week of May. 
Coincidently that loss was at the hands of Real Salt Lake, the same team that put the lone
blemish on LA’s record before the World Cup break. 

It
all adds up to an intriguing encounter on Saturday evening.

This
will be the second and final game between the teams, after a 0-0 draw at The
Home Depot Center nearly six weeks ago. 
That was the same evening that Galaxy fans sent Landon Donovan and Edson
Buddle off to join Bob Bradley and the U.S. Men’s National Team before their
trip to South Africa—
we’ll have more on that later. 

The
game on May 15 was a pretty dull affair if I must say so.  TFC had a couple chances early in the game,
including one for Dwayne DeRosario from point blank range that went wide of
Josh Saunders’ post.  The Galaxy’s best
chance came through Edson Buddle, whose close range shot beat Stefan Frei but
caromed off the post midway through the second half, denying the Galaxy the
full three points at home.

Toronto
FC coach, Preki finally seems to have his team all reading from the same script
these days.  After a rough start to the
2010 campaign that saw the Reds lose three of their first four, TFC is now
unbeaten in six of their last seven. 

One
common denominator during this run is that Preki has identified his core group
of players to produce results.  DeRosario
leads the team with eight goals, but has started only one of the last three
games.  His partner up front, Chad
Barrett is always a handful for 65+ minutes. 
Nick LaBrocca, Jacob Peterson, Amadou Sanyang and Martin Saric have held
down the midfield, while Stefan Frei and Nana Attakora have been the regular
contributors in the defense.    Nick
Garcia has started the last four matches for TFC, but will have to watch this
one from the stands, due to a red card suspension the MLS veteran picked up 27
minutes into Toronto’s 0-0 draw with Kansas City last time out, a result that Preki was
vocally not happy with after the game.

The
Galaxy had quite a bit of time to think about what went down in Salt Lake City. 
The time has also allowed a few players time to heal nagging injuries,
as well as take a little time to step away from the game and recharge the
batteries. 

There
is no question that the goal that basically ended LA’s amazing unbeaten run to
open the season was controversial. 
Javier Morales was clearly in an offside position, which is not
debatable.  But what was up for debate
was whether rookie, Michael Stephens had an intended to play the ball back to Omar Gonzalez or whether the ball was deflected off of
him.

Last
week in their weekly Referee’s Week in Review,
U.S. Soccer said that the ball
did deflect off Stephens and that the goal should not have stood. While that’s
a bitter way to see a potential record breaking unbeaten streak come to end,
there is no doubt that referee errors are part of the game. Something that
we’ve all seen while watching the U.S. during
the World Cup.

That
said, it’s all water under the bridge, and this is something that the Galaxy
have to put behind them in order to begin another quality run for the final
four months of the year.  There is no
doubt this team has the talent to do it, if they can mentally regroup and take
action.  A solid performance on Saturday,
in particular in the first half would be a positive first step.

There
are two factors that will help the Galaxy earn a result.  First will be the control of the
midfield.  If Juninho and Chris Birchall
can hold the ball, and spend less time chasing, the Galaxy will have the upper
hand.  This will allow Juninho time to incorporate
the wide players such as Michael Stephens and Sean Franklin on the right and
Alex Cazumba and Todd Dunivant on the left, into the play.  Plus when Birchall has to do a lot of ball
chasing, usually that is an indication the team is a bit stretched out of its
shape, and often scrambling to cover defensively.

The
second factor relates to the first, as it centers on the midfield.  Defensively in that part of the field LA will
need to close the space and make it difficult for TFC to have time to play the
ball forward for DeRosario and Barrett. 
When the Galaxy is pushed forward, Toronto
is excellent at the counter. Often the way that Toronto
gets in behind defenses is with quick; explosive passes for Barrett and
DeRosario to run onto.  If the Galaxy
defense can limit the chances for that pass, they will go a long way toward
getting another three points.

QUICK
HITS –

Top
of the list, the U.S. National Team has been incredible!  Watching the game against Algeria
with Chris Klein, we both turned into kids jumping around when Landon put that
ball into the net.  Let’s hope the mojo
carries right into Saturday’s first knockout game.  Come on you Yanks!!! USA,
USA, USA!

Continuing
on that theme, you may recall that a certain Galaxy broadcaster said that Bob
Bradley’s squad would finish the group with 5 points and move on to the
knockout stage.  That same mind also
predicted a 1-1 result in the opening Group C game against England.  Yes… for once (or twice even) I was right.

Back
in LA, Jovan Kirovski and Tristan Bowen have a new challenge.  With Buddle and Donovan still away on
international duties (above mentioned match), teams will now game plan to try
and stop the Galaxy’s attacking duo. 
This will be an opportunity to see if the two worked on any new wrinkles
during the two-week break.

Donovan
Ricketts will get his first look at Toronto FC this weekend as Josh Saunders
made his lone MLS start of the 2010 season against TFC on May 15.  Ricketts gave up one goal in a 2-1 win for
the Galaxy in last years same fixture in Canada, though that game was played on
turf, while this year’s game will be played on the natural grass surface that
TFC laid down on the field before the start of this season.

Speaking
of BMO Field, no question the place will be rocking.  This will be my fourth year travelling north
to Toronto and it keeps getting better.  There is always a fantastic crowd and it is
arguably one of the best environments in MLS to watch a game, let alone call
the match.  It never gets old and is
always a treat.

Finally,
I mentioned that TFC will line-up without Nick Garcia.  As a result, it is very possible that former
Galaxy defender Ty Harden will be inserted into the lineup in Garcia’s spot.  Dedicated Galaxy fans will remember Harden’s
diving goal line clearance in the Galaxy’s first visit to Toronto
back in 2007. That save kept the game scoreless and helped to preserve a 0-0
draw.