View from the Booth: Galaxy Approach the Midway Point in Fine Form
After watching 15 Galaxy games this season, I have decided to go in a different direction. “Debbie Downer” as I was recently called is gone and the new Rogo is convinced that this LA Galaxy team is on the right track.
What is that track you may ask? Not even I am exactly sure, but it is a positive one.
I still have not seen this club put together a full 90 minutes of quality soccer, but four wins in a row and going unbeaten in six straight matches has convinced me this team has what it takes to grind out results.
The 2011 version of the Galaxy has learned from mistakes that left points on the table earlier in the campaign. Any one of the past 1-0 wins could have ended in a draw, but Bruce Arena’s team maintained its focus and found a way to get it done.
I will confess, the flurry in front of the Galaxy net against the Revolution in the closing minutes of the game, which included A.J. DeLaGarza and Landon Donovan each clearing the ball off the line, did have me in panic mode for a few seconds.
Now, the focus turns to D.C. United this week.
WATCH: Match Preview
The match will be the second and final time the teams meet this regular season. The first meeting was an example of what I was referring to in the above statement about learning to finish out games. The Galaxy all but had the match wrapped up at RFK back in mid-April, when a late penalty (although it is still up for debate how much contact there was between Omar Gonzalez and Charlie Davies) helped United earn a share of the points. Similar to last week’s clash with New England, there has to be a hint of payback for LA in the rematch.
United are coming off a solid month of May, going unbeaten in MLS play which includes a recent 3-2 win in Portland this past week. Chris Pontius recorded a goal and an assist in the win and Josh Wolff came on as a second half sub to tally D.C.’s third goal on the night.
With Charlie Davies out of the lineup due to injury, Pontius and Wolff are the most dangerous options. Now 34-years-old, Wolff might not possess the same speed he displayed in the past, but he still makes very intelligent runs and will finish when given even a half chance.
As for Pontius, the third year midfielder/forward seems to get better with each game. If Pontius can stay healthy, there is no doubt he can be a double-digit scorer over the course of a year. Galaxy fans have seen him shine at The Home Depot Center before, just look back to the opening match of 2009 when Pontius curled a ball into the far post side netting for his first-ever MLS goal.
The match with D.C. also marks the first of three or four games LA will play with out the Donovans. Both Landon Donovan and Donovan Ricketts are joining their national teams for this summer’s Gold Cup.
My Gold Cup predictions, I expect the U.S. team to make the Final on June 25th, meaning the Galaxy captain will miss all four of LA’s games in June. Ricketts will probably be back in time to face San Jose on the road.
The good news for the Galaxy is that this team has had to play without the Donovans before in 2011. Josh Saunders has made four starts for LA this year, and the Galaxy have also taken the field four times without their captain (including the 1-1 draw at D.C. United). In both of those scenarios, the Galaxy recorded only one loss, the 4-1 defeat to Real Salt Lake in late March, which so happens to be the only game that both players missed this year.
The absence of those two will force countless others to step up. Miguel Lopez continues to improve and impress up front, scoring his first goal of the season on Saturday. It will be interesting to see how his role, as well as those of players like Juninho, Mike Magee and even David Beckham, who will be the captain on Friday night, changes with the absence of Landon.
Another player that I expect to perform in Donovan’s absence is Juan Pablo Angel. Yes it has been a slow start for the Columbian in his first year with LA, considering what he has done in the past with New York. But with the season reaching the midway point, this is a perfect setting for Angel to get it going heading into the second half of the year.
Be sure to tune into the broadcast on FOX Soccer, which will include an interview with Angel during the pregame show, to see if I am right.