Three Points: LA Galaxy ready for the unexpected on Sunday as they face the Portland Timbers
PORTLAND, Ore. – LA Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano offers his Three Points to LA’s match with the Portland Timbers. The Galaxy are searching for their fifth road victory this season on Sunday afternoon at JELD-WEN Field, a place where they suffered a 2-1 defeat on July 13.
GET THE DYNAMIC DUO BACK TOGETHER
The LA Galaxy offense is expected to get a shot in the arm this Sunday afternoon as Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan look set to resume their partnership against the Portland Timbers.
A left ankle sprain prevented Donovan from suiting up in last Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Seattle Sounders FC, but both Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena and Donovan himself are optimistic that he’ll be able to be available against the Timbers. A Donovan return to the starting XI would be a major coup for the Galaxy as the team’s final touch was lacking against the Sounders when LA created multiple chances, but failed to truly test the goalkeeper on a consistent basis. The statistics show just how valuable a Donovan and Keane partnership is to LA’s success as the team is 7-2-3 when they are on the field together with the two strikers accounting for 16 goals and 15 assists.
Expect the Galaxy to feed the both players early and often as they will be expected to find space behind Timbers center backs Futty Danso and Pa Modou Kah in order to pressure Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts. If the pair can work in tandem as they’ve done each time that they’ve suited up together this season, the goals will come for the Galaxy.
JUNINHO AND MARCELO SARVAS MUST KEEP DIEGO VALERI UNDER WRAPS
Leading the charge for the Portland Timbers on Sunday will be dynamic Argentine midfielder Diego Valeri, who serves as the engine that powers the Portland attack.
One of the top candidates for the league’s Most Valuable Player, Valeri is currently tied for the team-lead in goals with eight and has tallied a league-best 12 assists—two of which came in his side’s 2-1 win over the Galaxy in mid-July. Where Valeri has been primarily effective this season has been his ability to carve out space to feed Timbers attackers like Ryan Johnson and Darlington Nagbe going forward. As his goal total can attest, he is not simply a distributor; however, he has proven to be a major weapon for Portland with his service on set pieces. There was some question early in the week as to whether he’d be available due to a hamstring injury that forced him to exit in the 73rd minute of Portland’s 1-0 win over the Colorado Rapids last Friday, a game that Valeri scored the only goal in. However, the Argentine was given a clean bill of health by Timbers head coach Caleb Porter earlier this week.
The key to locking down Valeri will be limiting his time and space on the ball as he looks to generate offense in the center of the park. Look for Galaxy midfielders Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas to place constant pressure on Valeri as they look to prevent him from creating scoring chances for himself and his teammates.
WHO CAN HANDLE THE PRESSURE?
Sunday’s clash between the LA Galaxy and the Portland Timbers has all the makings of a thriller, which means that the side that best manages a raucous atmosphere inside JELD-WEN Field and the game’s likely frantic pace will likely emerge victorious.
Both matches between the two teams this year have been physical affairs with tempers flaring on each side, but Sunday’s match will likely add in another variable that may impact the game— the weather. The forecast for Sunday’s match promises wind and that will make the turf at JELD-WEN Field into a magnify the already swift playing surface. With the conditions expected to be wet, look for both teams to attempt to play in an up-tempo fashion that will be aided by the unpredictability of the slick surface.
The speed of play should benefit the Galaxy’s attack-minded style, but it will be a real advantage for quick winger Gyasi Zardes. Since taking a hold of the starting position on the left side of midfield last month, the 21-year-old has been a handful for opposing defenders with his speed and ability to generate goal scoring chances. Expect more of the same from Sunday as Zardes will be tasked with bypassing veteran Portland right back Jack Jewsbury.
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com