View from the Booth: LA-Chivas

The Galaxy have a chance Thursday to do something that took them until early June to do in 2009… win its second game of the season.  The Galaxy did have an unreal run at the beginning of last year, where they stacked up tie after tie, but it was not until LA earned a 2-1 result in Toronto that the Galaxy took maximum points for a second time during the season.  This season they can do it in week two, and even further do it against their inner city rival, Chivas USA.

Chivas are coming off a 1-0 loss to the Rapids to open their season, and the seat under new head coach, Martin Vasquez could get a bit warm if his club opens the season with two straight home defeats.  Translation: expect Chivas will come out ready to play in the year’s first installment of the Honda SuperClasico. 

This is a team that is still searching to find an identity under their new leadership.  Many of the faces are the same, but some are playing in new positions.  Defender Jonathan Bornstein for example, spent some time at center back last year, but appears that might be a permanent move for Bornstein this season.  In the opening weekend loss, Bornstein partnered along side Michael Umana, the Costa Rican defender is a new addition (although Galaxy’ fans might remember him from 2005).  In the attack, Maykel Galindo always presents a problem with his speed.  It is something that LA has dealt with well the last few times the teams have squared off, but certainly a weapon to be aware of.

Taking a brief glimpse at what LA did in its opener, there were both moments to celebrate, and ones to cringe at as well.  Let’s start with the positive.  The opening 15 minutes were exactly the start fans will want to see game in and game out.  Good rhythm, tempo and an early goal from Edson Buddle had the Galaxy faithful chanting for more!  Landon Donovan was leading the charge with energetic runs, with and without the ball, while defensively New England was having problems penetrating into the final third of the field.  But… for as bright as the start of the first half was, the second half went to the other end of the spectrum.  The Revolution had numerous chances in the early moments of the second half, and one has to assume that if a few of the Revolution  players were a bit sharper, New England would have equalized.  Kheli Dube in particular had two or three golden chances inside the area, yet some how put them over the bar.

Getting quickly back to the positives, I cannot say enough about the play of the Galaxy’s three new Brazilian imports, all of who played major minutes on Saturday night.  Leonardo was in for the injured Gregg Berhalter at the center back position, and did very well.  Showing both the ability to defend, as well as confidence to touch the ball out of the back, Leonardo might be another young addition to join Franklin and Gonzalez on a permanent basis.  In the midfield, Juninho displayed some of the attacking movements that were missing from the Galaxy at times last season.  The young player is very smart off the ball, and in due time will only make it more difficult for opponents to pick who they will focus in on when the Galaxy go on the attack.  Lastly, Alex Cazumba who came on as a substitute when Eddie Lewis picked up a foot contusion, and the third of the Brazilian trio proved to be just as good a fit.  Normally a left back, but forced to play in the midfield, Alex showed all the confidence on the ball you would expect from a young Brazilian, and the youthful legs to do the running for that position.  In case you are not following me here, these three players are going to be good additions to an already solid core of players.

Landon Donovan told me before last week’s game that he wanted the Galaxy to show “ that they are the best team in this league.”  He was quick to point out that that is no easy task to do, but if/when the Galaxy do that, the rest of the things (I.e. – playoffs, winning trophies, etc.) will take care of themselves.  If the Galaxy come out and play they way they did in the opening minutes of its first match, for the entire match on Thursday, they will be firmly on the path the Galaxy captain and his teammates are striving for.