Visiting players often cringe at the idea of playing the Dynamo at Houston's Robertson Stadium, which is one of the narrowest fields in MLS.
The official widths and lengths are 70 yards by 110 yards -- although there are those on the Galaxy who insist they're more like 68 X 110 -- compared to Home Depot Center's expanses of 75 X 120, which are among the league's largest. But no matter. The Galaxy have not been having too many problems in Houston of late despite the unusual dimensions.
Los Angeles, which is at Houston on Saturday in a rematch of last year's Western Conference championship, are 2-2-2 all-time in Houston, including a 0-0 tie last Oct. 18. There is no real secret to their success, except for having a knack for making the proper adjustments to what's at hand.
“You get less time on the ball, and obviously the spaces are a little bit tighter,” defender Gregg Berhalter said. “That can work for or against you, but you can put pressure on the opponent easily.
It's also easier to keep your shape and not get stretched out.
“At the end of the day the dimensions are the same for both teams.”
The tight field often makes for a much more physical game, something Galaxy midfielder Dema Kovalenko said he particularly enjoys.
“It's more my game,” he said. “The field dimensions make it a little bit more. Sometimes you lose a ball on your end of the field or in the middle and something can happen right away. You have to be careful with that.
“You never know what's going to happen ... we know what we have to do.”
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said Robertson Stadium forces teams to play a different game, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. The teams that prepare best for the challenge usually will succeed.
One way the Galaxy went about preparing was to simulate Houston’s field dimension at training this week. The markings for the normal field width were greened out in favor of Robertson’s pitch-size.
“Everybody knows the size of the field when they get there,” he said. “You just have to be mentally prepared to deal with the different tactical challenges.
The Galaxy's Landon Donovan said it's helped with game preparations.
“It's a subtle thing but it makes a difference,” he said. “It puts in your mind where you are on the field when we do set pieces, corner kicks and throw-ins. It really makes you adjust the way you're playing.”
Donovan is a veteran of narrow fields, having played at San Jose's Spartan Stadium when he was a member of the Earthquakes. Donovan said the two playing surfaces have their similarities.
“If you're intelligent, you can take advantage of things on the field,” he said. “If you're aware of where you are, you might shoot when you normally wouldn't. You can put defenders under pressure in a different way because they're closer to their goal.
“If you're smart about it, you can make real advantages and maybe make a play that really makes a difference.”