DEAL WITH THE EMOTION
Wednesday night’s match (7pm ET/ 4pm PT, NBC Sports, 1330 AM, LIVE CHAT) promises to be an emotional one as the Columbus Crew plays their first game following the tragic passing of midfielder Kirk Urso. Columbus’ match on Saturday was postponed to allow Crew players’ to attend Urso’s funeral in Illinois, setting the stage for the game against the Galaxy to be their first after the tragic events.
The emotion may be inevitable, but how both clubs deal with that added stress remains to be seen. Fueled by an emotionally-charged crowd, expect Columbus to attempt to put LA under pressure early with a fast start.
For the Galaxy, the best way to ride the emotional wave will be to match Columbus’ intensity from the start by attempting to hold possession and create scoring opportunities early. Should the Galaxy take an early lead, it may provide too much stress for Columbus to handle.
WHO STEPS IN FOR BECKHAM AND DONOVAN?
When the Galaxy take on the Crew, they’ll do so without two of their biggest stars and determining who steps in, may well determine the winner.
The Galaxy have been down this road before as they were without both David Beckham and Landon Donovan during their 1-0 victory over FC Dallas. With the two DP’s unavailable, look for Bruce Arena to turn to the likes of rookie forward Jose Villarreal up top with Robbie Keane and midfielder Marcelo Sarvas in the center of the park.
With Mike Magee—the starter up top against Dallas— likely to start on the flanks, Villarreal is a worthy compliment for the Irishman as his ball skills could place the Irishman in dangerous scoring options. Meanwhile, partnered alongside Juninho, Sarvas has quickly become one of the Galaxy’s most dangerous offensive weapons with his deft touch and ability to exploit space behind opposing defenses.
ANOTHER GAME FOR THE BACK FOUR
Making their first start together since last November, the “Championship” defense of Sean Franklin, A.J. DeLaGarza, Omar Gonzalez and Todd Dunivant were dominant during last Sunday’s victory over Chivas USA and will need to be again for LA to defeat Columbus.
In the SuperClásico, the quartet was a cohesive unit as they limited the Rojiblancos to just three shots on goal throughout 90 minutes. Against the Crew, they’ll face a stiff test from a Columbus side that will be attempting to pressure LA from the start.
As the Galaxy look to put their early season defensive woes in the rearview mirror, another start together will help the back four provide a solid defensive foundation heading into the playoff stretch.
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog lagalaxy.com/Insider