For some reason I don’t feel as comfortable as I should heading into Saturday’s game with the New England Revolution. The Revs have just one win in their last 12 league games, and have been outscored 9-0 in their last three MLS games. But for one reason or another, I think you should expect a feisty team to take the field at Gillette Stadium. One has to think that there will be a sense of pride from some of these players when the Galaxy and Revs meet for the second time this season.
Coming off of a 5-0 thumping at the hands of Real Salt Lake last week, I know that players like Matt Reis and Shalrie Joseph will be digging into the hearts of some of the young New England players to find what it takes to put forth a quality performance. You know the saying about backing a wounded animal into a corner…that applies to the Revolution here.
Regardless of how New England comes out to play, the Galaxy seem to have picked up right where they left off for the two and a half months before the World Cup break. There were moments in the game vs. Seattle where LA played some of its best soccer so far this season. Really the only time the team let up and lost mental focus was in the second half, and Steve Zakuani made use of the lapse to tally his fifth goal of the year. Aside from that brief moment, LA dominated the game, dictated the tempo, and created the better chances. If the Galaxy come out that same way against the Revs this week, they will have a very good chance at sweeping the season series.
Plain and simple the Revolution is struggling. It is a very young team that has also had to deal with a myriad of injuries this season. Taylor Twellman has yet to play a game, Shalrie Joseph has only made six appearances and the team’s leading goal-scorer this season is rookie, Zach Schilawski. That is not to take anything away from Schilawski, but Revs fans are used to hearing names like Twellman, Ralston, Heaps and Joseph leading the team to the top of the Eastern Conference table. The reality of the situation for the Revs right now is that coach Steve Nicol does not have much to choose from. Sainey Nyassi has been the most consistent player in terms of minutes on the pitch, and Nyassi was a role player for most of his time with the Revs in past seasons. Kheli Dube came on as a substitute in the Revs’ last match, and might be a player to watch come Saturday. Remember that Dube was the player that had the best chances to score for New England when the teams met in week #1 of the MLS campaign all the way back on March 27.
LA just needs to stick with what has been working all year. Start fast; control the possession meter and when New England does get the ball into LA’s half, force the ball into wide positions making it difficult to play through the middle. The Galaxy has the big bodies in the middle to defend, and then there is always Ricketts back in the net to come up with a save or two.
There will be one familiar face missing from the central defense though, Omar Gonzalez. The reigning Rookie of the Year is suspended for this game due to yellow card accumulation, and it will be the first time in Omar’s MLS career that he will be not in the line-up. Look for Leonardo to fill in for him, and Galaxy fans should feel very confident with the young Brazilian stepping in along side the veteran Gregg Berhalter.
Quick Hits –
The Galaxy continues to hang their hat on top-notch defending. It really is unbelievable that this team has only given up five goals in 15 games this season… unbelievable.
Expect Landon Donovan to start producing goals in addition to his league leading 10 assists. The reigning MLS MVP will see more opportunities to score, especially with teams starting to turn their focus on the in-form Edson Buddle. One thing I would say to Landon, “feel free to be a little more selfish from time to time.”
Having covered MLS for a number of years now, I have had the pleasure of speaking with Revs’ head coach Steve Nicol. Nicol is one the biggest gentlemen in the league, and has a unique sense of humor. Even if you are not a Revolution fan, you have to feel for a coach that has done so much for New England over the years, yet finds himself once again with very little to work with. Thus his team’s record in 2010.
Former Galaxy goalkeeper Matt Reis will make his third start of the year this weekend. Reis has a habit of playing well against his former team, though he has not beaten the Galaxy since May 2008. This will be the first time this year he will take on LA, as he missed LA’s season opening 1-0 win while recovering from offseason surgery. Preston Burpo who has now replaced Reis on the Disabled List, was in goal New England in that one, allowing just the one goal on an early Edson Buddle header.