CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy will be playing at Colorado on Saturday, but Sunday’s most-anticipated match will have Galaxy written all over it.
When the United States play Jamaica in the Gold Cup quarterfinals at RFK Stadium, the match will be heavily influenced by a pair of LA stars: Landon Donovan will try to guide the US into the semifinals, but standing in his way will be a Jamaican side buoyed by Donovan Ricketts, who has two clean sheets in two games played thus far.
“I wish them both the best,” Galaxy midfielder Mike Magee said. “Obviously I want the USA to win, but hopefully the USA wins 1-0 so D doesn’t get scored on too many times.”
Jamaica have been one of the tournament’s best teams thus far. In the group stage, the Reggae Boyz passed through unscathed, beating Grenada, Guatemala and Honduras by a combined 7-0. San Jose’s Ryan Johnson was the scoring star, putting two goals past opponents.
Donovan and the US will have their work cut out for them.
“They’re a very good team in the moment, they’re tough and they have some good players,” Galaxy midfielder Chris Birchall said.
With other MLSers such as Dane Richards of New York, Sporting KC’s Shavar Thomas and Houston teammates Je-Vaughn Watson and Jermaine Taylor, the US can ill afford to take the Reggae Boyz lightly.
“Jamaica has a good team so it’s going to be a good game,” Magee said. “They haven’t been scored on it. [Ricketts] is a beast back there. If they want to score, they’re going to have to give it their best shots.”
For two prominent club teammates to potentially play a major role in a match of this magnitude could make for some unique moments, Birchall said.
“I’m sure they’ll have a laugh after the game, but during the game, I’m sure they’ll be serious because the semifinals are at stake,” Birchall said. “It’s easy to switch off when the game’s going, but when there’s breaks in play and before and after the game, it’s always humorous to see a player you know so well, that you train with every day, and it’s two different nationalities. It’s two players who are playing great for their club team and representing their country.”
What could make for a rather awkward situation for both players is if there is a penalty kick or a penalty-kick shootout involved. Donovan usually takes the US’ penalties, as he does for the Galaxy. With the LA captain standing at the penalty spot and Ricketts staring him down, surely there has to be some sort of advantage one has over the other.
“You never know what the players would be thinking at that time and what side Ricketts will be diving," said Birchall. "Hopefully it will come off and we’ll all see.”
If it were to come down to a shootout, though, at least one player would be at a disadvantage.
“Ricketts will be the first to admit that he’s probably not the best at penalty shootouts,” Birchall said. “He gets a lot of stick here. We always give him stick that Josh [Saunders] is better than him in shootouts and penalties. There may be the mind games.”
The lone bright spot to having a Galaxy vs. Galaxy matchup in the Gold Cup quarterfinals is that one player will be back with the squad next week and possibly back in the lineup when LA visit San Jose on June 25. Which player would be welcomed back sooner than the other?
“We’re not rooting against the US,” Dunivant said, “but it would be nice to have [Landon] back.”