CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy will be without defensive stalwart Omar Gonzalez for Saturday’s match against the Colorado Rapids due to international duty, meaning that one member of the LA defensive corps will need to step up for the U.S. international.
Gonzalez has been a leader in the backline for the Galaxy since 2009, but his teammates are quick to offer him support as he attempts to become a regular with Jurgen Klinsmann’s U.S. squad.
“We’re going to miss Omar’s presence back there, his ball-winning capabilities, and being big in the center and an important role in our defense, but we knew that he was going to be leaving for national team duty,” said Sean Franklin. “All the best to him, but I think we’ll be fine with people coming in and playing.”
Head coach Bruce Arena will have a host options in the back as A.J. DeLaGarza, Leonardo, and Tommy Meyer seem to be strong candidates to see time in the backline. While the decision may seem complicated as each central defender has enjoyed plenty of MLS success, Arena attests that his decision is a simple one.
“If you’ve noticed we’ve rotated five players in four positions. You can probably do the math,” Arena told reporters after Tuesday’s practice. “Five rotated, four positions, and one is gone. Probably even you guys can figure that one out.”
The five man rotation that Arena speaks of has seen Franklin pushed up at times into the midfield while DeLaGarza mans the right side of defense with Leonardo partnered with Gonzalez in the center while Todd Dunivant is placed out to the left. At other times, Franklin has been used at right back with DeLaGarza paired in the middle with Gonzalez and Dunivant at left back.
This defensive rotation is something new for LA, who over the past two seasons have relied extensively on a central defensive partnership that includes Gonzalez and DeLaGarza or Gonzalez and Meyer. The rotation may be a different concept for the Galaxy defense, but DeLaGarza insists that the center backs familiarity with one another softens any blow.
“The constant switching hurts us a little bit, but they are still guys who have been here a number of years who know that position and know the system,” said DeLaGarza. “It shouldn’t change too much.”
Despite Arena’s assertions, center back Tommy Meyer figures to be a potential option for the Galaxy ahead of Saturday’s match. The 22-year-old central defender returned to full training last week and has been inching towards a return with two consecutive appearances on the Galaxy’s 18-man game day roster.
Meyer admitted last week that the decision will be made by Arena, but he has confidence in whoever gets the start in the back four.
“It’s not my decision, but Bruce has used a lot of guys during the preseason and regular season,” Meyer said on Tuesday. “We have a really solid backline so hopefully the people that step in will be ready to play since they’ve been used to it.”
For all the choices and options to man the back four, DeLaGarza is quick to state that LA have three more days to hash out their squad before Saturday’s match.
“We still have a week to prepare. We’ll see how guys prepare,” said DeLaGarza. “Tommy is a possibility, Leo is in there and myself so we can go a lot of various ways.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com