FRISCO, Texas – The LA Galaxy may be the final unbeaten team remaining in Major League Soccer, but they enter Saturday evening’s showdown with FC Dallas (4:30 p.m. PT, NBC Sports, LIVE CHAT) looking up at their opposition. With eight points from a 2-0-2 record, the Galaxy enter the weekend five points behind their opponents but hoping to shrink that deficit while at the same time, maintain their strong start to the season.
A pair of off weekends, as a result of their involvement in the CONCACAF Champions League, have left the Galaxy playing a league-low four games while Dallas are 4-1-1 on the young season, including a perfect 3-0-0 mark at FC Dallas Stadium. Now, with the Champions League campaign done, LA are once again free to concentrate on improving their league standing and avoiding the post-CCL malaise that plagued the club a year ago.
“We’re not going to let that happen again,” Magee told LAGalaxy.com. “Last year we fell into a tough way and this year, we’re going to learn that lesson and not let that affect us. We’re just going to throw it away.”
While LA’s participation in the Champions League is done, it has left head coach Bruce Arena with a number of squad selection issues ahead of Saturday night. Eight players played at least 80 minutes in Wednesday’s difficult 1-0 loss to Monterrey while nine players have appeared in all eight games that LA have played this season, including six who have started every match that the club has played.
“We’ll have some changes for the game tomorrow,” said Arena, who would not confirm what changes would be made.
One of those players that played more than 80 minutes on Wednesday was Landon Donovan. The Galaxy’s all-time leading scorer made his first start since rejoining the club in the second leg defeat and played the full 90 minutes up front and in the midfield against a tireless Monterrey side. If Donovan is unable to go, Arena is not short on potential replacements with Jack McBean, who scored late in the 1-1 draw with Chivas USA, and Jose Villarreal, who scored a late equalizer in LA’s last league game away to Toronto FC on March 30, each battling for playing time. Mike Magee, who leads MLS with five goals on the season and scored the only goal in the Galaxy’s last visit to Frisco – a 1-0 Galaxy win on July 28, 2012 – could also return to the lineup after coming off the bench in Mexico while dealing with soreness in his right leg.
At the other end of the field, the Galaxy defense has remained resolute all year long, limiting opponents to just 21 shots and nine shots on goal in four regular season games. Only three of those nine shots on goal have gotten past Carlo Cudicini, but two of the three, as well as all four goals that the Galaxy conceded to Herediano and Monterrey in the Champions League, have come in the final 15 minutes of games.
With the central defense pairing of Omar Gonzalez, who will have a crowd of more than 250 friends and family in attendance at the game, and Leonardo, as well as A.J. DeLaGarza having played significant minutes over the past few weeks, the Galaxy backline can be expected to be tested once again by the pace of players like Fabian Castillo, David Ferreira and Jackson as well as the bigger bodies of Blas Perez and Kenny Cooper.
“[Dallas has] the same personality that they’ve had in the past. Ferreira is the one that makes everything happen for them,” Arena said. “They’ve got an experienced group in the back that has been together for some years…as well as a number of players in the midfield...they’re a good solid team and continuing to grow as a team and organization.”