The LA Galaxy needs to get back to playing the way they did the first four months of the season. There is no simple way of saying it. They need to put the month of July behind in the rearview mirror and focus on the final third of the season.
Thankfully, LA has the perfect example of how to follow this exact road map, their 3-2 loss to Real Madrid last weekend.
Galaxy fans were flying high watching the home team head into the locker room with a 2-0 advantage at halftime, only to see it crumble in the second stanza of action. Sure, make the argument that both teams made wholesale changes, but it did not matter which players LA put on that field in the second half because Madrid was a different level.
And that is precisely the mentality I am looking for. If Landon Donovan can do his best Cristiano Ronaldo impersonation, leading LA the way the Portuguese international did for his club, it would not hurt either.
The Galaxy and Red Bulls have developed a quality rivalry over the past three seasons, specifically the matches that have been played on the East Coast. MLS fans know this very well— remember New York’s 5-4 win in 2007 at (Old) Giants Stadium? And Saturday’s game could feature every bit of what the past games have had, and more. Having been a part of the broadcast for the past three, I for one can say that I really wish Becks were going to be making his return for this one. The match is already sold out at the brand new Red Bull Arena, and No. 23 would bring a unique spotlight to an already bright match-up. Nonetheless, New York’s addition of Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez to a roster that already featured Juan Pablo Angel will no doubt energize the home crowd.
This is an incredible Red Bull team that the Galaxy is going to have to execute against in order to have any chance at earning the three points. NY has lost just twice this year in league play at home, and are currently on a run of three matches without a loss. When you look deeper beyond the three DP’s, head coach Hans Backe has numerous options. Estonian midfielder Joel Lindpere is not considered a DP on the roster, but certainly plays like one. With the arrival of Marquez, Lindpere has shifted a bit wider, but his contributions are still as impactful, including the game’s lone goal in the midweek win. Defensively, Tim Ream is going to have to do his best Omar Gonzalez impersonation. Ream has to be in the conversation for 2010 Rookie of the Year, but like Gonzalez in 2009, might not have a ton of stats outside of minutes played to impress the voters. That said, the formula seemed to work out for Gonzalez.
As for the Galaxy… where do I start? The team has lost the ability to defend. For as incredible as LA did defending as a unit the first four months of the season, they have been completely off the other end of the spectrum for the past six weeks. Even Donovan Ricketts, the amazing goalkeeper that provided highlight reel save after highlight reel save, has shown kinks in the armor. This has to be the first and biggest area of improvement for this game. One has to think there is a ton of mental focus needed to see improvements. That core back four, Dunivant, Berhalter, Gonzalez, and Franklin did not all of a sudden forget how to stop other clubs. If the focus and cohesion returns so will the shutouts.
Quick Hits –
Even in defeat, what an amazing night at the Rose Bowl. For the nearly 90,000 that were there, I don’t know that you really could have asked for more. Ronaldo and Higuain were sensational, one-of-a-kind talents on the field. It was a treat, also, to watch Xabi Alonso lead the midfield with decisive passing and vision.
Hats off to the Galaxy for sending Clint Mathis off in style. The Rose Bowl had to be a nice touch for the MLS veteran. Great move from Bruce Arena to give Clint the captain’s band and the chance to break a sweat with one of the best club teams in the world.
Speaking of Bruce Arena, it will be interesting to see how the New York fans receive him. Remember Arena had a short stint at the helm of the Red Bulls before coming to Los Angeles. Bruce was recently selected into the National Soccer Hall of Fame, but you know how tough the NY sports fans can be.
RSL is getting closer and closer in the West. Right now would be a great time to start another strong run to close out the West and ride some momentum in to the playoffs. To do it on a national broadcast against one of the bigger clubs in the league would be the perfect way to put July in the rearview mirror and focus on the final third of the season.