With just a few days rest, LA make their first appearance at PPL Park in Philadelphia to face the Union for just the second time ever tonight. Even though this is a Union team that has been eliminated from playoff contention, don’t count them out just yet. Head Coach Peter Nowak will make sure that his guys are charged to not only play hard, but to try and make life difficult for LA heading into the final games of the year.
It was a pretty good first half for the Galaxy in their last match, but the second half left me a little unsettled. Yes the ultimate goal is to walk away with three points, and you can also argue that Alan Gordon’s goal was clearly offside…but, what concerns me is that the Galaxy have the chance to burry a team early in the second half and Chivas played its way back into the match. Because it is getting closer to playoff time, I want to see the killer instinct from this team. When you have a 2-0 lead at the half, one more goal in the first 15 minutes of the second half, more often than not will kill off the rest of the match.
Like many of you, I was surprised by some of the changes that Bruce Arena made to the lineup. Re-inserting Michael Stephens and Chris Birchall into the midfield seemed to be a good balance with Juninho and David Beckham. You can count on the rookie to always fill in the gaps defensively. Stephens seemed to hit a wall about a month ago, probably due to the fact that the professional season is a longer season than what he encountered at UCLA, but a couple of games on the bench appear to have served him well.
The same can be said for Birchall. Always a competitor on the field, Birchall seemed to really be pressing to tally his first goal in a Galaxy kit, and at times that hindered his decision making, particularly with the ball in the final third of the field. It is akin to a young quarterback in football getting a chance to stand and hold the clipboard for a couple of games, watching how things operate from the sideline, and then when presented with an opportunity to come in and show he has picked up from watching the game with a different perspective. That change of perspective helped both players.
The other noticeable change came in defense, where A.J. DeLaGarza came in and partnered with Omar Gonzalez in central defense. Certainly we know those two players are familiar with each other, not just from last season, but also from their time in college at Maryland. Not to take away from Leonardo or Yohance Marshall, but if Gregg Berhalter is not able to be in the back four, I think that the combination of A.J. and Omar is the best solution for LA. The understanding between the two, the balance of a big powerful defender in Gonzalez, and a speedy, feisty defender in DeLaGarza provides a great blend. It will be interesting to see if Arena agrees with that, we will know as soon as the starting lineup is announced this evening.
As for the Union, they have made steady growth over the season under Nowak. Some of the young players the team was really counting on at the start of the season like Mwanga, McInerney, and Nakazawa have all started to step up. If you look back at the line-ups from early in the year, #1 draft pick, Danny Mwanga was hardly seeing the field, and when he was it was in a second half sub role. With just a few games remaining, Mwanga has worked himself not only into the starting 11 on a regular basis, but is also Philadelphia’s second leading scorer. Because Philly is out of playoff contention, the question now becomes will he give some of his other players more time on the pitch to see if they are part of the plans for next year, maybe taking away from giving his team its best shot to win the game?
Once again, their starting lineup will answer that question.
Quick Hits –
I guess if there was any question how David Beckham’s injury affected his ability to take his patented free kicks…the answer is a resounding “NO!” Great strike from Beckham, and let’s hope that is the start of a couple more heading toward the playoffs. That could be a massive weapon in LA’s arsenal down the stretch.
Edson Buddle seems to be getting back into form at the right time. It helps that now not just Landon Donovan is on the field, but also Beckham to force defenders away from cheating toward Buddle. As we watch the race for the Supporters Shield continue for the Galaxy, don’t forget to keep your eyes on Buddle and his race for the Golden Boot in MLS.
Lastly, I know I always take time to mention the fans and the support they provide for the Galaxy, specifically at the HDC. Well I am urging you to step it up another notch for these final two home games coming up. I just returned from Seattle where I called the 2010 U.S. Open Cup Final, and it is amazing how much the crowd affects the match. I know that you the fans can play a similar role for the Galaxy. So, get your friends, your family, and your co-workers and tell them to come out to the games. Two big Western Conference opponents will be coming to Southern California, and the matches will carry plenty of importance in the final standing. I hope to see you all there in Carson next weekend.
Bruce Arena and Landon Donovan Are Not Savoring Sunday’s SuperClaisco Victory
Return to the lineup boosts the Galaxy and Stephens
Preview: LA at Philadelphia
Training Update: Galaxy Pick up the Pace
Training Update: Prepping for Philly