Galaxy showing continued depth in defense
CARSON, Calif. – Adaptability and resiliency, two of
the cornerstones of the LA Galaxy this season, will be put to the test once
again in Friday night’s showdown with the New York Red Bulls at The Home Depot
Head coach Bruce Arena and
his staff have taken great satisfaction in building a team that prides itself
on its depth. But Friday’s matchup between the Eastern and Western conference
powers will mark one of the biggest challenges of the season. Center back Omar Gonzalez will serve a one game suspension for
yellow card accumulation while Gregg Berhalter, who returned to the field in
training this week for the first time in more than a month, is still is not
ready to make his first appearance since the last meeting between the Galaxy
and Red Bulls. Additionally, A.J. DeLaGarza, who has also been used in central
defense this season, has a left knee strain and is questionable for this week’s
game. Like Berhalter, DeLaGarza has been on the field for parts of the team’s
training sessions this week but is not at 100%.
That leaves the likes of
Leonardo, who missed the win over D.C. United with a left quad injury, and
Yohance Marshall, who played the full 90 minutes in last Saturday’s 2-1 comeback
victory over United, to man the center of defense. Last week’s game marked the
MLS debut for Marshall, who had been recalled only a week earlier from his loan
assignment with the Austin Aztex of the USSF Division 2 Pro League.
“It’s been a challenge,
that’s for sure,” Arena said about his reconfigured back line. “We have to find
the right combination of players for Friday, and I have confidence in the
players we have.”
The Galaxy can take comfort
in the fact Sean Franklin has started 12 of the last 14 games at right back,
and Todd Dunivant has missed only two games at left back this season. Dunivant
and Franklin said they aren’t worried about the new-look pairing in central
defense or how injuries and suspensions have sapped the reserves.
“We do need to get guys
healthy, but Yohance stepped up when we needed him to and we’ve done that all
year,” Dunivant said. “It’s always a concern when you have three center backs
who are on the shelf, but we’ll make do.”
Said Franklin, “We have a good group of guys. Even
though some guys are gone for us, Bruce built a team that has depth at that
position. Guys are filling in this week, and I’m totally confident they’re
going to do a good job.”
Leonardo, who did not play
against D.C. United, has started nine games this season and has been
impressive. Then there is Marshall, an undrafted free agent in 2009 out of the University of South Florida.
The 24-year-old played the
full 90 minutes against D.C. United and drew universal praise for his ability
to step into a difficult situation and hold his own.
“He might have had some
nerves coming back for a week and then starting, but he did very well,” Franklin said. “When his
number was called, he stepped right in.”
Marshall, who was praised
for his level of confidence by Arena after the game, said once he got over his
pregame nerves, he was fine.
“I’m nervous before every game,”
he said. “That’s a natural thing since I’ve been playing. It wasn’t any
different from any other game, but I felt better as the game went along.
“I came back with the
intention if they need me I’m going to be ready. I worked hard every day and I
got the call.”
He’ll likely get another
call on Friday in one of the biggest games of the season, and the Galaxy are
and the rest of the reshuffled defense will respond.
“It’s the sign of a good
team when you have guys that can step up,”Dunivant said. “You can’t
just rely on the same back four or back five. There’s going to be injuries,
suspensions and call-ups. All of those things play into a season.
“If you want to win the
Supporters' Shield and make a run at MLS Cup you have to have a lot of guys step
up, and we’ve certainly had that.”
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