CARSON, Calif. – The last time one of the hottest teams in Major League Soccer's Western Conference arrived in Southern California, the LA Galaxy handed Seattle Sounders FC a resounding 4-0 loss in arguably the best performance of the season by the two-time defending MLS Cup champions.
Now it is the high-flying Portland Timbers’ turn to venture into these parts on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at StubHub Center (Time Warner Cable Sports Net, Time Warner Cable Deportes, 1330 AM, LIVECHAT). The Timbers (6-1-8), featuring former Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts (six shutouts) and first-year head coach Caleb Porter, arguably are one of the league’s biggest surprises and owners of a club-record 13-game unbeaten streak in league play, having not lost since March 9.
The struggling Galaxy (6-6-2) can’t wait for the challenge.
“We are more than ready for Wednesday,” Landon Donovan said after training Monday.
There are a couple reasons for Donovan’s optimism. First is the addition of veteran midfielder Pablo Mastroeni, who along with the rights to Hammarby IF midfielder Baggio Husidic was acquired for an international roster slot and the Galaxy’s natural second-round pick in the 2014 SuperDraft.
“There’s no secret that we lacked a little bit of bite and at times some leadership, particularly in the defensive part of the field at the end of games,” Donovan said. “He (Mastroeni) certainly brings that. He brings obviously a ton of experience and he’s a good soccer player.
“When you combine all that, I think he’s going to help us a lot.”
Another reason why Donovan is feeling a bit more upbeat than usual is the return of striker Robbie Keane. The Irish international, who recently became the most capped player in the history of Ireland’s national team, has missed the last two league games – the Galaxy were outscored a combined 8-1 in losses to Real Salt Lake and New England – and casts the kind of presence that gives opponents fits.
The Galaxy are 4-1-1 when he plays compared to just 2-5-1 in games he doesn’t.
“Robbie’s on an incredible goal-scoring tear on every level with every team,” Donovan said. “Even when he doesn’t score he causes so many problems and headaches for the other team. I would hate to be a defender playing against him. He impacts the game in such a significant way.”
Keane said he didn’t watch the Galaxy’s games while he was on international duty but he did the “highlights.” It’s safe to say he didn’t like what he saw.
“Hopefully we can get back to winning ways again as soon as possible,” he said. “You concede that many goals, there’s clearly something wrong. It clearly hasn’t been good enough. We just have to get back to the basics.
“The good thing about football is there’s always another game. We certainly can turn it around this week.”