CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano gives his Three Points to the Galaxy’s match against the San Jose Earthquakes. LA are winless in their last four regular season meetings with their rivals from Northern California, though, as Galaxy players were quick to point out this week, they did eliminate the Earthquakes from the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs.
BERNARDEZ ABSENCE CREATES A SIGNIFICANT HOLE IN FOR GALAXY TO EXPLOIT
The San Jose Earthquakes will be without three players due to suspension (Rafael Baca, Victor Bernárdez, Justin Morrow), but none of those players is more valuable to San Jose than Bernárdez. With the Honduran central defender unavailable to play on Saturday, expect LA to target whoever fills in for him beside Clarence Goodson.
Veteran Jason Hernandez is the most likely to step in for Bernárdez, but some fatigue is likely from the 30-year-old after he went 90 minutes during San Jose’s 1-0 defeat to Guatemala’s C.D. Heredia in CONCACAF Champions League play on Wednesday. Whereas Bernández is a physical defender, Hernandez is a more cerebral center back, who is unlikely to press the Galaxy forward tandem of Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan.
Look for Keane and Donovan to target Hernandez, who has not only looked shaky at times this season, but has also not started a league game since July 13 against Seattle and has only played three minutes in his club’s last five league matches. Additionally, Hernandez has never played alongside Goodson outside of training, meaning that the communication and understanding between the two could be limited. With the Galaxy duo in their best form this season, the prospect of Hernandez lining up in central defense should whet the appetite of the LA forwards.
GYASI ZARDES BECOMING A FOCAL POINT FOR THE GALAXY ATTACK
Gyasi Zardes is continuing to transition to life out on the left flank for the LA Galaxy and with each passing match, he is becoming a crucial part of LA’s attack.
Zardes has started the last three matches out wide and has shined as he’s used his speed to challenge opposing full backs and set up scoring opportunities. Being stationed out on the left hasn’t taken away from his shots as the 21-year-old has tallied 10 shots in his last three matches. Once the rookie starts finding the back of the net on a regular basis, the Galaxy will have found yet another meaningful contributor to the offense.
On Saturday, he’ll be matched up with right back Steve Beitashour, who was a major contributor during San Jose’s run to the Supporters’ Shield last year, but has failed to match his productivity so far in 2013. Beitashour’s eagerness to push forward and aid in the attack could benefit Zardes, who will look to catch the defender up field and lead LA counter attacks.
OUT BASH THE “BASH BROTHERS” AND CLOSE OUT THE GAME
During past meetings, the San Jose Earthquakes have exploited the Galaxy’s lack of size in the back four, but the center back tandem of Omar Gonzalez and Leonardo should give San Jose’s forwards Alan Gordon, Steven Lenhart , and Chris Wondolowski all that they can handle on Saturday.
Throughout the season, the Earthquakes have been unable to duplicate their physical style of play that led to 72 goals in 2012 as they’ve managed just 28 so far this season. This plays into the hands of Leonardo and Gonzalez, who are both natural ball winners in the air and will look to limit any opportunities for the Earthquakes’ attackers to test goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.
Not only could LA’s size in central defense help them win the physical battle, but it should also aid their efforts to close out the match if they get a lead late. No one on either side of the “California Clasico” has forgotten about the way San Jose won the last meeting between the two teams back in June and LA will be eager to avoid a repeat.
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com