BAYAMÓN, Puerto Rico— A youthful lineup was pivotal during the LA Galaxy’s 4-0 victory over the Puerto Rico Islanders in August and it appears likely that it will be yet again when the two teams face off on Wednesday. (5pm PT, FOX Soccer Channel, Univision Deportes dos, lagalaxy.com/gamedaylive)
Head Coach Bruce Arena opted to leave behind five starters— Sean Franklin, Josh Saunders, Mike Magee, Omar Gonzalez and Robbie Keane— from Saturday’s 2-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids as well as David Beckham, who is still recovering from a left ankle sprain.
“We’re just in a week where we’re playing three games,” Arena said during a press conference Tuesday at the team hotel in Puerto Rico. “We need to turn around quickly and play at home on Saturday. We think that you have to have the right kind of balance in your team to be able to play the three games in a short period of time and that’s what we’re doing.”
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The Galaxy’s squad isn’t all youth, however, as Landon Donovan, Edson Buddle and Christian Wilhelmsson were among the 10 players who could be considered first team starters that made the trip. With several first team players sprinkled amongst the reserves, Arena has full confidence in LA’s ability to earn the victory in Puerto Rico.
“We’ve brought a team here that we think can win,” said Arena. “It’s that simple and it’s the same thing as we did some weeks ago. We’re positioning a team on the field that we think can be successful.”
As the Galaxy look to not only advance in the CCL, but continue their run in MLS play, they are 4-0-1 in their last five league games, Donovan admitted that depth will be vital to LA’s goals in both competitions.
“When you have our league and a tournament like this,” said Donovan during the press conference, “the most important thing is having a number of players that can contribute because you can’t play the same 11 guys 45 or 50 times a year.”
“Bruce has done a great job creating a team that has a lot of depth and a lot of guys that can contribute. When it comes down to it, we have enough talented players and enough players with experience and are capable enough to win any game that we play in this part of the world.”
JIMENEZ AND STEPHENS READY TO STEP IN ON THE RIGHT FLANK
One of the major lineup changes for the Galaxy on Wednesday appears to be Hector Jimenez stepping in for Franklin on the right side of LA’s defense.
Jimenez started at right back during the club’s victory over the Islanders in August, playing 50 minutes there before moving up to the right side of midfield when Sean Franklin came on, and following training at the Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium, Jimenez admitted that he expects to be there again on Thursday.
“Most likely I’ll be playing right back, so I’ll try to defend a little bit and try to attack,” said Jimenez. “It might be Mikey [Stephens] on the right so we’re going to try to combine well and create some trouble for them on left.”
Placing Stephens and Jimenez together on the right is nothing new as the pair held the same spots during LA’s win over the Islanders in August. With Stephens’ energy and defensive prowess balancing Jimenez’s eagerness to attack, the pair believes that they form an effective partnership.
“He’s really fit and he’s willing to get forward,” said Stephens. “It takes a lot of pressure off me, not being a guy that really likes to get down the line that much, so if I have him behind me, I know he’s going to be coming down the whole game. He’s very relentless going forward and I like that.”
PITCH AT JRL “SPONGY”
The conditions at the Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium are unlikely to provide the Galaxy with many favors come kickoff on Wednesday night.
At first glance, the field at Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium is in better shape than the club’s trip in 2010, but it is not without its issues.
“The field was spongy with high grass,” said Wilhelmsson, who could make his CONCACAF Champions League debut on Wednesday. “It’s going to be quite heavy to play the game and the ball will go a little bit slower than normal so we have to be prepared.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.