CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy won’t have the services of their forward tandem of Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan in Saturday’s match against the Colorado Rapids and with that duo away on international duty, LA’s young strikers will have to pick up the slack.
Throughout the week, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena has affirmed that the “lineup hasn’t been determined yet,” but with Gyasi Zardes settling into his role on the left side of midfield, the pairing of Jack McBean and Jose Villarreal appear to be the front runners to be the front runners.
This season, McBean and Villarreal have appeared in 12 and 16 league games respectively, which dwarfs the number for LA’s other available forwards: Charlie Rugg, who has a goal in three appearances, and Chandler Hoffman, who has yet to earn first team minutes. The pair earned the start the last time LA faced the Rapids at home back in April and started up top in Sunday’s scoreless Reserve League draw against the San Jose Earthquakes.
If it is the young Homegrowns starting together, the pair is confident that they’ll be able to create chances against the Rapids.
“We just need to be a little sharper,” said Jose Villarreal. “Landon and Robbie aren’t going to be here so we have to create our own chances… It was important for us to get a game in together [on Sunday]. We did well, we didn’t finish, but hopefully that comes on the weekend, if we play.”
Although the pair are teenagers, they’ve developed an effective tandem together over the years that was first forged during their days in the Galaxy Academy. As they’ve moved up to face bigger and stronger competition their bond has continued as they’ve routinely been able to create scoring chances for one another.
“It’s like Kobe and Shaq, a little man and a big guy,” said Villarreal. “We complement each other well, he lays off balls [for me], and I give him through balls and crosses. It’s a good match.”
“Jose and I have started together and we’ve scored goals together so we’ll be alright,” said McBean. “He’s an underneath player and I’m a target guy. I just look to lay balls back to him and we work well together.”
The duo won’t be alone as the rest of the Galaxy attack will need to create opportunities with their attacking stalwarts unavailable. Whether it’s Zardes and Sean Franklin making dangerous runs down the flanks or Marcelo Sarvas and Juninho gallivanting in the center, the forwards would have plenty of help.
Sarvas is an interesting offensive weapon on his own right as he’s scored four goals this season—two of which have come in matches LA’s played without either Landon Donovan or Robbie Keane. The Brazilian midfielders meandering style of play has always given him plenty of looks at goal, but when Donovan and Keane have been absent, he’s become even more of an asset in the attack.
“We trust [the young forwards] and hope that they can do well. It’s another chance for those young guys and a good game for them,” said Sarvas. “We have to put them in position to create something. It’s up to them to find space to receive the ball, but I hope they can do what they do in training.”
If they get the nod, then Villarreal is confident that the forwards can create some offense against the Rapids.
“I think that if we start, we have to come out with a good mentality and do the little things right. We just need to do what Bruce tells us to do and, simply, be a dangerous asset for the team. Most importantly, just help as much as possible.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com