CARSON, Calif. – I don’t think that I am alone when I say that I hope the 1-0 shutout win is a jumping off point for the Galaxy heading into the final 10 games of the MLS season. The Red Bulls put LA under tremendous pressure in the second half, but in true bend but do not break fashion, the Galaxy held on for the full three points. It also has to build confidence that the Galaxy accomplished it against maybe the most dangerous strike partnership in the league.
Maybe on paper this week’s match in San Jose does not look as daunting, but throw in the emotional ingredient, and the test should be just as tough. There are so many connections between the Galaxy and the Quakes that it usually makes for really great matches. No, it isn’t always the prettiest soccer, although Edson Buddle’s hat trick a couple of years back at McAfee Coliseum comes to mind, but it is heated, intense and gritty. Expect all of those adjectives and more when the teams take the field at Buck Shaw Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Quakes must still have a sour taste in their mouth after the first meeting against LA nearly a month ago. Landon Donovan came to the Galaxy’s rescue in the dying seconds of the match to salvage a point at the HDC. What probably felt like a win for LA, had to have the opposite feeling for the visitors, so expect them to come out on fire this time around.
Quakes head coach Frank Yallop is one of the best guys to chat with about soccer, but he is just as competitive as the next coach, and I know the draw did not sit well with him. This is the chance for San Jose to not only to pay the Galaxy back, but also earn the three points that they desperately need at this point in the year.
Although Chris Wondolowski is the Quakes leading goalscorer, it is the players that attack from the wide positions on the field that I think LA should be most concerned with. Arturo Alvarez and Bobby Convey are both loaded with skill and what makes them difficult to defend against is their unpredictability. Both players are versatile at taking the ball to the end line and serving it in, or even better, cutting inside and traversing across the top of the 18-yard box looking for a shot. When defenders converge, the option of slipping the ball through for a second runner becomes available. That is where Wondolowski and veteran Cornell Glen, one of the many players to play on both sides of this rivalry, find their chances. Galaxy defenders, you have been warned.
Defensively San Jose will, without question, miss Jason Hernandez who is out due to suspension. In Hernandez’s place, Bobby Burling will likely fill in next to former Galaxy midfielder turned defender Brandon McDonald. I have always like the way McDonald plays, with plenty of passion and bite when it comes to challenging for a loose ball. I imagine that is one of the reasons Frank Yallop brought him into San Jose following his rookie season in LA.
But I also know that this is a battle that the Galaxy can win in that area of the field. A matchup of Edson Buddle against either Burling or McDonald is good for the Galaxy. Even further, if/when Bobby Convey pushes forward into the attack for San Jose, it will often leave just three at the back for the Quakes, and more space for Landon Donovan or Tristan Bowen to operate.
It is those moments during the game that Landon has to lead the attack like Kobe Bryant on the fast break at Staples Center. Sometimes you set up one of your teammates for an easy chance to finish, other times you take it all the way and finish with a monster jam, well… I mean driving shot into the back of the net. You get the point.
Quick Hits –
Outside of the Real Madrid game at the Rose Bowl, last week’s game at Red Bull Arena was the best game I have been at this season. Hands down the best stadium in the league, and to see two teams compete for 90 minutes in front of a sold out crowd was amazing. Was it better than 67,000+ at Giants Stadium in 2007? No, but it was close!
With the recent trade of Alan Gordon across the hallway at the HDC to Chivas USA, it looks like it is up to Tristan Bowen and Mike Magee to see who will partner with Edson Buddle up front for LA. Bowen brings youth and speed, but Magee can be so crafty, and is a clinical finisher around the goal. Stay tuned to see who gets the job down the stretch.
You have to feel for former Galaxy goalkeeper, Joe Cannon. After being sent to the bench in favor of Jon Busch during the past two months of the season, Cannon finally regained his starting spot in goal last week and helped the Quakes to a 1-0 win over Kansas City. Unfortunately, Cannon broke his ankle in training this week and is likely done for the year…OUCH. From one (former) goalkeeper to another, get well soon Joe.
As many of you may have heard, David Beckham is beginning to get back into the mix for the Galaxy. He has started training with the team, and in fact accompanied the team on the trip to New York this past week. If he can indeed come back and contribute at any point over the final two months of the season and into the playoffs, it could be a massive boost for the Galaxy. There have been a number of important additions to rosters across the league over the last couple of weeks, but no mid-season acquisition will likely have a bigger impact for their club than the return of Becks. You can take your Henry’s, Giovanni’s, Marquez’s or any of them, but I think that the return of a healthy David Beckham to the Galaxy lineup may just be the boost the team needs to get over the edge and back to MLS Cup.