CARSON, Calif. — Isn’t it amazing what a win can do for your confidence.
While it was great to see the LA offense come to life, I was more impressed with the way the Galaxy played. They were better than the Crew in every facet of the game and put themselves back to the front of the line for this year’s Supporters Shield. Needless to say, it was a needed win, but more importantly, a much needed team performance
So now the question becomes, how does LA follow up that performance when they face D.C. United for the second time this season?
On paper you would think that this is a game that LA should walk away with, but just ask Toronto FC, and their now ex-coach Preki about that. TFC lost at home to United last weekend in a game the Reds really had to have. For one reason or another, just when you think you can count a team in MLS out, they come back to bite you in the…
For the better part of an hour against the Crew, the Galaxy looked every bit of the team they were in the first 15 games of the year. Landon Donovan was the common thread amongst the quality play, Edson Buddle was finding chances inside the penalty area and finishing them, and Donovan Ricketts came up with a big save early in the match to keep LA in front. The cohesive movement within the team was exceptional, and as Bruce Arena put it, the “effort and energy” were what he (and Galaxy fans) has come to expect. Yes there was a tiny drop off in the final 25 minutes or so, but that is expected with a 3-0 lead and should not be a warning sign going into the final six games of the season and on into the playoffs.
If you watched the broadcast of the game (and I know it was tape-delayed) I said several times that it was amazing to see how much you miss a player, and you really don’t know it until that player returns. That was precisely the case with Juninho. After missing a couple of games due to personal reasons, Juninho returned to the line-up and was a huge reason why LA looked so good. He is able to do so many of the things that normally fall on the shoulders of the Landon, which in turn frees him up to get in dangerous positions on the field, specifically in the final third of the field.
I asked Landon about that this week, and he quickly pointed out how much easier it makes his job on the pitch. Bottom line…welcome back Brasileiro!
The return of Juninho also allowed Bruce Arena to move Jovan Kirovski back up front along side Edson Buddle. I think I speak for Edson when I say it was a welcomed change to have Kirovski up front. His presence takes pressure off of Edson by giving him another experienced, big body up front to battle opposing center backs, win the ball in the air and hold it up to build the attack.
The Galaxy have been searching for that element following the trade of Alan Gordon, but it looks like Bruce Arena may have found the remedy. I expect Jovan to be in the lineup again Saturday, and maybe this is the partnership LA will ride into the playoffs. I look forward to seeing how it plays out over the final month of the season.
Looking at D.C. United, this is a team that is still mathematically alive for a playoff spot, but realistically the team is playing for pride at this point. They showed that is plenty motivation, as they went to Toronto and earned a 1-0 win last weekend. But can they do that for a second week in a row?
Initially I would say that it doubtful, but under Interim Coach Ben Olsen you have to think it is a realistic possibility. If you ever watched Olsen as a player, you know that he not only competed for 90 minutes, but he was always one of the hardest working players on the field, if not the league. D.C. should do themselves and its fan base a favor and remove the “interim” tag from Olsen’s title. He deserves a shot at coaching this team with a clean slate…i.e. – from the beginning of the 2011 season.
Quick Hits –
One of the small details that does not show up in the stat sheet, but is clearly a characteristic that indicates if the Galaxy is playing well or not, it the contributions from the outside backs. Todd Dunivant and Sean Franklin were great last weekend against the Crew. Dunivant always brings a consistent effort, but Franklin put out one of his best performances of the year getting up and down the flank. His service into the area for the games first goal was splendid, and one that would have made even Beckham proud!
Speaking of Mr. Beckham, it was good to see him back on the pitch for the first time since March. Aside from the passing, and on-field vision, the part I liked the most was seeing how hungry he was to compete. Beckham was not shy to go in on a couple of 50-50 challenges, and even picked up a card within five minutes of being on the field. This could turn out to be the best late season addition of any team in MLS this season… unless of course if Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez don’t help lead New York to their first MLS Cup. But that is a topic we can discuss next week in this very same space.
Lastly, I want to take a moment to urge you to call, text, email or yell at all of your friends you know to make it out to The Home Depot Center next week. It will be one of the best games of the year when the Galaxy face New York, and because I was in New York earlier this year to see the crowd and the type of support they put behind their team, I want Galaxy fans to do the same. This is the perfect setting to bring someone to a game that has never been to The Home Depot Center before to watch MLS. All sorts of talent will be on the field, and likely in the stands as well. When I was at Red Bull Arena earlier this year, Tony Parker, Ronny Turiaf and other athletes came through the gates. Without question there is a larger selection of stars here on the west coast, and believe me when I tell you, many of them are soccer fans. Make me proud LA, the challenge has been issued!