Three Points: LA Galaxy hope to silence slumping Earthquakes

LA Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano’s Three Points to the California Clásico

CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano offers his Three Points to the LA Galaxy’s California Clásico against the San Jose Earthquakes at Stanford Stadium on Saturday.

KEEPING WONDOLOSKI IN CHECK

San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski is having an “off year” by his own high standards with just five goals this season, but that doesn’t mean that the Galaxy are going to take the 2012 MLS MVP for granted on Saturday.

Wondolowski missed the Quakes 1-0 defeat to D.C. United last week with a foot contusion, but returned to training this week and is expected to be back in the starting lineup on Saturday. The 30-year-old forward might be having a slow start for someone with 61 regular season goals over the past three years, but the forward has terrorized the Galaxy in regular season play with goals in each of his last three home games. Shutting down Wondolowski will be LA’s primary objective on Saturday as the forward has a knack for creating scoring chances no matter where he’s stationed on the field.

The task of stopping Wondolowski will fall primarily to center back Omar Gonzalez, who silenced the forward during the 2012 Western Conference Semifinal series.  The reason for Gonzalez’s success in that series came down to the defender’s positioning as he was repeatedly able to out-muscle the 2012 MLS MVP in front of goal and prevent him from firing shots on frame. If LA is to earn a win on Saturday, a similar tactic must be adopted.

CAN ZARDES CONTINUE TO SPARK THE GALAXY ATTACK?

Gyasi Zardes was dynamic against Chivas USA as he helped lead the LA Galaxy to a 1-0 victory, but he’ll need a repeat performance if LA are to defeat the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday.

Zardes’ ability to stretch defenses with his speed while also winning balls in the air was vital against Chivas, but he’ll face a considerably stronger back four on Saturday . The 21-year-old Homegrown forward is in for a major test at Stanford Stadium as he takes on burly Honduran defender Victor Bernárdez, who will return to the lineup after missing the last three matches due to suspension and injury. An extremely physical defender, the Honduran will attempt to overpower Zardes and use his size to mark the forward out of the match.

Just who will be paired alongside the lively Homegrown forward remains a question, however. After training indoors earlier this week, LA head coach Bruce Arena noted that Robbie Keane is “likely” to be available for selection, but if he is unable to go, then forward Jack McBean is a secondary option for LA.

SAN JOSE RETURNING TO THEIR STYLE OF PLAY

Under interim head coach Mark Watson, the San Jose Earthquakes have aimed to return to the offense that led them to the Supporters’ Shield a year ago—using quick wide players to whip in crosses into the penalty area for San Jose’s target forwards.

In two games in charge, Watson has sought to use speedy wingers Shea Salinas, Marvin Chavez, and Walter Martinez to get behind defenses, but has enjoyed mixed success as San Jose has scored just twice in two matches while compiling a 1-1-0 record. Difficulties finding the back of the net are nothing new for the Earthquakes this season as they have been shutout in four of their last six games. Perhaps the reason for San Jose’s lackluster success in front of goal this season has been the absence of target forwards Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon, who have struggled with injuries this season, but are both expected to be available for selection on Saturday.

The presence of these two targets means that the Galaxy will need a complete defensive performance to shut down the Earthquakes on Saturday. Full backs Todd Dunivant and Sean Franklin must cut down space for San Jose’s wingers while LA’s center backs will need to bat away any crosses to prevent dangerous chances in the 18-yard box.

Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com