Well that was a fun first game of the season, but if we’re being honest with ourselves, Chicago wasn’t much of a test. Your LA Galaxy head up to the Rose City to play the Portland Timbers tomorrow at 4 PM on Fox Sports 1, and this should be much more of a challenge for the reigning champs.
Portland ground out an ugly 0-0 draw in their opener at home to Real Salt Lake, and although they didn’t score any goals—thanks to the god that is Nick Rimando—they didn’t let any up either. Newly signed Nat Borchers and Liam Ridgewell make a fearsome center-back duo, and they’ll do their best to slow down Zardes, Keane and co. Not to mention, after losing Donovan Ricketts this offseason, Portland replaced him with Ghanaian International Adam Kwarasey, who helped extend their streak from last season to nearly 400 minutes without conceding a goal.
Although Diego Valeri and Will Johnson are still out injured, Portland may gain a sense of false hope because Diego Chara, the midfield anchor against the unpredictable Galaxy midfield, is fit for this one.
Now to the Galaxy: despite a convincing shutout win against Chicago there are still lots of questions for Bruce Arena to answer. Everyone was confused as to why Jaime Penedo didn’t start, but after a shutout can you really justify dropping Brian Rowe? Villareal scored and looked really lively, but is it too early to consider him a lock-in at left midfield? Maybe young Bradford Jameison deserves a shot. What about Baggio Husidic; he’s fully healthy now so where does he fit into this starting lineup? And finally, with an embarrassment of defensive riches, what is LA’s best back four? Surely you have to play AJ DeLaGarza, but Leonardo—I hate to say it—has been exceptional since the end of last season. And can you drop Dan Gargan after the fantastic season he had last year? What about on the left side? Obviously Robbie Rogers has to start. But what about Todd Dunivant, one of the club’s longest serving players?
The conditions for Sunday’s game are supposed to be nothing short of hellish with heavy rain on the forecast so don’t expect the cleanest of games despite the artificial turf. It’s only the second game of the season, but expectations are high and with what should be one of the most balanced and competitive Western Conferences ever, away points are extremely important. This should be an aggressive, physical game for the Galaxy in such a hostile environment, but look for Zardes to get on the score sheet and get his first of the 300 goals I’m expecting him to score this season.