Three Points: Looking ahead to Saturday’s SuperClásico against Chivas USA

Adam Serrano with three points heading into the second leg of the SuperClásico

juninho_chivas

Photo Credit: 
Robert Mora/LA Galaxy

The three points looking ahead to Saturday’s SuperClásico against Chivas USA…

LINEUP CHANGES AFTER ROADTRIP?

The primary question heading into Saturday's SuperClásico will be just how many changes Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena opts to make to a squad that earned four points on a recent Pacific Northwest road swing. 

Against Vancouver on Wednesday, Arena opted for a “winner’s XI” by selecting the same starting lineup that earned a victory in Portland just days earlier, but the Galaxy head coach is unlikely to repeat the squad for a third time on Saturday.  With eight players going at least 80-plus minutes in both games on the unforgiving turf surfaces at JELD-WEN Field and BC Place, the Galaxy are expected to shuffle the deck -- to some degree -- against Chivas.  While Arena has rarely shown a willingness to make sweeping changes, the three most likely inclusions for Saturday are Juninho, Omar Gonzalez and Bryan Gaul.

In his first game back from suspension, Juninho came off the bench in the second half and played an integral part in the Galaxy’s comeback against the Whitecaps. Juninho made his presence felt by not only settling an occasionally inconsistent Galaxy midfield, but also by dishing the final pass that led to Jose Villarreal's game-tying goal. Meanwhile, Gonzalez has long targeted the SuperClásico as a potential return date and could retake his starting role in central defense – for 45 minutes at least – against the Rojiblancos. While Gonzalez and Juninho's inclusions are based on form, Gaul is likely to be an injury replacement for left back Todd Dunivant, who remains hobbled by a right calf injury.

THE UNSTOPPABLE FORCE MEETS THE IMMOVABLE OBJECT

Both Chivas USA and the Galaxy head into the SuperClásico on a roll as of late, thanks to two dramatically different approaches.

Recently, the Galaxy have earned results by overwhelming clubs with an electric attack spearheaded by their three biggest stars Landon Donovan, David Beckham and Robbie Keane. But on the other end of The Home Depot Center hallway, Chivas’ success comes from their impressive defense, which is headlined by 2012 MLS All-Star goalkeeper Dan Kennedy.

While Kennedy has been stellar in net this season, the match will ultimately depend on the Galaxy’s ability to place Chivas’ center backs Danny Califf and John Alexander Valencia under pressure. Califf has stabilized the Rojiblancos back four since arriving from the Philadelphia Union in mid-May, but Chivas’ defense has been prone to errors when matched up against an aggressive attack. 

CONTROL THE MIDFIELD

For the Galaxy to defeat Chivas USA on Saturday, they’ll need their midfield to display a consistent performance after an uneven showing midweek against Vancouver.

In the first half against the Whitecaps, the Galaxy midfield found themselves deep in their own end from the start from pressure by Vancouver’s Gerson Koffie and Barry Robson. However, once Arena brought on Juninho in a move that saw David Beckham sent out to the left flank, the Galaxy attack grew more dynamic and ultimately erased their two goal deficit. After their success in the late stages of the game on Wednesday, expect the Galaxy to deploy a similar high pressure system in midfield against Chivas on Saturday.

LA’s quest to control the midfield on Saturday will be aided by the absence of Chivas’ midfield engine Oswaldo Minda due to a shoulder injury. With Minda absent, the onus falls on Chivas’ midfield combo of Nick LaBrocca and Ben Zemanski to battle with the likes of Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas for control in the center of the park.

Read Adam Serrano’s LA Galaxy Insider Blog at lagalaxy.com/insider