CARSON, Calif. – Desperate times call for different formations.
Or something like that. At least, that’s the call LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena made for last Sunday’s match against Portland. Due to injury, suspension and international duty, the Galaxy were down to two healthy forwards – and one of them was 17 years old.
Thus, LA took the field in what was effectively a 4-5-1 with Chad Barrett (above) the lone front man, a new-look formation that paid off immediately in the form of a 1-0 victory. And given the likelihood that the depletion up front continues at least for the short term, perhaps the Galaxy will trot out a five-man midfield again soon.
“Bruce wanted to try something different,” midfielder Marcelo Sarvas said. “He now has the confidence going forward that he can trust in the quality of players he has and he can build on that.”
A three-man central midfield with Sarvas, Juninho and David Beckham helped clog up the middle and kept the Timbers attack at bay.
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“We wanted to get them on the field together, and they were all fantastic,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said of the trio. “We didn’t have a ton of options, we have some injuries and that was kind of the way it worked out.”
Barrett was the last forward standing with Edson Buddle (knee), Adam Cristman (concussion) and Pat Noonan (quadriceps) out with injury and Robbie Keane away for Euro 2012. Teenager Jack McBean was not an option to start, Arena said, though he came off the bench late in the game. Mike Magee, who has spent much of his career at forward, sat out with a suspension.
Arena said he didn't have much choice but to alter the formation.
“I don’t think you need to be a genius to figure that out, if you know who we had available," Arena said. "We had one forward and our young kid and those were the choices.”
Sarvas hoping to stay put
One of the key components in the Galaxy’s midfield Sunday may continue to force Arena’s hand and help keep the five-man midfield intact. Sarvas got just his fifth start of the season but responded with what he felt was his best showing.
His hope now is to stay right where he is.
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“I felt I had a good showing and things turned out well,” the 30-year-old Brazilian said. “We had a good chemistry with Juninho and Beckham and I had a couple of opportunities to score a goal and hopefully I can use this going forward.”
Sarvas started two of the first three games of the season but has not found much consistency since then. Entering Sunday, he had played in just eight of the Galaxy’s 13 games and had only four starts. But on Sunday he showed the quality that made him a sought-after commodity.
“Before he came to the club, we played against him, I said he was very talented player,” Beckham said on Sunday. “He proved it tonight. He pressured their back four and obviously some in midfield and he worked very hard for us. He had a great game.”
With the Galaxy’s injuries piling up, the team’s depth will be tested. Sarvas then could stand to get more playing time and thus could become a key contributor down the stretch.
“We need all the help we can get,” Arena said. “Marcelo's going to be important, like all the guys that were on the field to help us put together a good run hopefully the second half of the season.”