Three Points: LA Galaxy set to face Houston in rematch of last two MLS Cups
CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano provides his Three Points to the Galaxy’s clash against the Houston Dynamo, which is a rematch of the last two MLS Cups.
WILL THE INJURED QUARTET PARTICIPATE?
The LA Galaxy were without the likes of Carlo Cudicini, Landon Donovan, Todd Dunivant and Robbie Keane for their 2-0 victory over Real Salt Lake, but will they be in action on Sunday?
Throughout the week, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena has stressed that the club expected to have all of their players available for selection; however, the fates of Dunivant and Keane remain up in the air. Neither were present during the portions of training available for media this week, leaving a question mark as to whether they will be available for Houston. The news is considerably rosier with Cudicini and Donovan as both expressed optimism that they can participate against the Dynamo.
If Dunivant and Keane are unable to go on Sunday, Arena may turn to the players who stepped up for them in Utah as Greg Cochrane and Charlie Rugg enjoyed strong games against RSL. The options don’t end there, however, as Jose Villarreal remains another contender to start up top after returning from U.S. U-20 duty, while Gyasi Zardes continues to prove a factor for LA.
HOUSTON’S ATTACKING WIDE BACKS COULD OPEN UP SPACE FOR GALAXY COUNTER
The Houston Dynamo boast a pair of attack-minded outside backs in Cory Ashe and Kofi Sarkodie, but exploiting their tendency to go forward could be a boon for the Galaxy attack.
Both Ashe and Sarkodie are known throughout MLS for their speed and ability to whip in crosses for Dynamo forwards like Giles Barnes and Will Bruin and Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear will be expected to utilize his speedsters against the Galaxy. Sarkodie in particular has been incredibly effective this season as he holds the team-lead in assists with three. Expect both players to attempt to place considerable pressure on LA’s outside backs as the Dynamo look to put LA down early.
A brisk counter will be key to neutralizing Houston as outside backs Sean Franklin and Greg Cochrane will be asked to force turnovers and funnel balls forward for LA to find space behind the defense. This game plan is certainly not a new one for LA as the Galaxy’s counterattack was vital in both of the club’s MLS Cup victories over the Dynamo in 2011 and 2012.
THE KEY TO CONTAINING HOUSTON - SHUTTING DOWN GILES BARNES
The Dynamo may be without their chief playmaker Brad Davis due to suspension, but they’re expected to give the Galaxy all that they can handle, particularly due to the play of their leading goal scorer, Giles Barnes.
Barnes arrived in Houston late last season after bouncing in England with stops at clubs like Derby County and Fulham. A late season addition, Barnes made just four appearances in MLS play while failing to find the back of the net for the MLS Cup runner-ups, but he has enjoyed a breakout season on 2013 with a team-leading three goals in eight matches.
The job of containing Barnes will fall to LA’s center back duo of A.J. DeLaGarza and Omar Gonzalez, who will have their hands full with the dynamic forward. Known for tucking back behind advanced striker Will Bruin, positioning will be key for LA’s defenders as they look to prevent Barnes from using his athleticism to create opportunities.
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com