After a rough night in Tijuana, the LA Galaxy need to do some soul-searching — and stat. Their next challenge is a formidable one: the Galaxy head to Rio Tinto Stadium for a rematch against Real Salt Lake.
In LA’s season opener RSL weathered a furious flurry of attacks to escape StubHub Center with a 1-0 win. Now the Galaxy will hope to do on the road what they couldn’t do at home. This is LA’s chance for payback, yes — but it’s also a chance to right the ship, to try and find solid footing before we get too far into 2014.
For any of that to happen the Galaxy need to make changes. So here’s a quick look at what’s broken, what can be fixed, and who can make all the difference on Saturday.
STEADIER AS SHE GOES
LA’s shaky defense fell to pieces on Tuesday, dragging the team down with it. The good news is reinforcements are on the way. Veteran left back Todd Dunivant returned from injury on Tuesday, and his presence played a big part in stabilizing LA during their comparatively collected second half.
Larry Morgan spoke to Dunivant at training on Thursday, and he sounds eager to get back to the starting lineup. But whether that happens Saturday remains a question mark.
“You’ve got to listen to your body and come back when you’re ready to come back. I pushed as hard as I could and got back as soon as I can.”
—Todd Dunivant, to LAGalaxy.com
When the Galaxy lost to RSL, it wasn’t for lack of trying. LA had a staggering 27 shots on goal, a number as impressive as it is embarrassing: the Galaxy have to get better at finishing, and they need to do it before Saturday.
To be fair to the forwards, RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando put on a stunning show in that first game. The recap video might as well be Rimando’s highlights reel. Saturday he’ll have the RSL supporters cheering at his back — we can expect another great performance. For LA, getting a positive result out of Rio Tinto will hinge on whether they’ve found a way to beat Rimando.
SHAKING UP THE STRIKERS
LA has an opportunity to switch up the front line. Samuel’s time up top has been flashy, yet (mostly) fruitless — and after Rob Friend’s solid showing during the second half at Tijuana, I expect the towering Canadian to get the starting nod. Adam Serrano penned a great article on exactly this, with a bit from Robbie Keane that I really love:
“Rob isn’t one of these [target forwards] that you can just smack the ball up to him and he flicks [forward], he holds the ball up and gets involved in the play. It gave myself and Landon a lot of joy just behind him.”
—Robbie Keane, to LAGalaxy.com
Don’t think for a second I’m writing Samuel off in any way. Like I wrote in our season preview, I expect to see these two trading off throughout the year. But now’s the time for experimentation and I expect Bruce Arena to take advantage of it.
KEY – Likely starter, first sub
Jaime Penedo, Brian Perk
RD – A.J. DeLaGarza, Oscar Sorto
CD – Omar Gonazalez, Leonardo, Kofi Opare
LD – Todd Dunivant, James Riley
Robbie Keane, Rob Friend, Samuel