Heading into this weekend’s match against Houston Dynamo, LA have yet to fully gel together as a new team, in spite of their win at home against a weak Chicago Fire, and a last-minute tie in Portland where excitement and surprise always dominates. Lots of questions remain but in an atmosphere of hope and anticipation. Is AJ DeLaGarza fit to play? Will he start? AJ certainly hopes so. “I missed the entire preseason, but I got 60 minutes in a [closed-door scrimmage] against Galaxy II last week,” DeLaGarza said. “There’s no better way to get fit then actually playing. Hopefully soon, I can get back out there, and hopefully suffer no setbacks.”
“There’s no better way to get fit then actually playing. Hopefully soon, I can get back out there”
Will the new Finnish midfielder, Mika Vayrynen, prove to be the solution to LA’s perceived midfield dilemma after Savas’ surprising and unpopular trade? After a successful debut in Portland, many eyes are on him for continued pass completion rates and a tenacious style of play. While admitting his need for increased fitness, Mika credits his current level of play to having a vision of the field, a trait more experienced players tend to have. “Maybe [vision is] the one big part in my game. You know, I’m not maybe the fastest guy in the team, so you have to have the vision and you have to be able to anticipate what’s happening in the next situation.”
Many are looking towards Gyasi Zardes to take on more of a seasoned and consistent leadership position in the attacking third, especially after lingering doubts about LA’s ability to finish in Portland. “You know it’s always difficult playing on a turf field, especially with the wind but no excuses. I do think I lacked a finishing touch [at times] but I got a goal, which is important.”
Meanwhile, this is Houston’s first away game for the season, having started with an opening victory against the Crew, and a loss to the newly-minted OCSC last Friday. After a disappointing 2014 season, where they placed 8th in the Eastern Conference, a lot is at stake for them and their new coach Owen Coyle this Saturday to set a regular pace for the beginning of the season.
Unfortunately for the Galaxy, the Dynamo have won each of the last 4 MLS matches between them. But going back further in time, Houston lost out on two MLS Cups to LA in 2011 and 2012. Houston’s GK Tyler Deric will be on his toes to make up for an own-goal last Friday against Orlando. There’s no doubt that Houston is heading to LA with every intention of coming out fighting. Says Owen Coyle: “I’ve been there before in other leagues, you have the elite teams, and LA, there’s no doubt they’re one of the elite teams within the league. But that’s not to say we can’t go there and win and be competitive and that’s what we look to do.”
“LA, there’s no doubt they’re one of the elite teams within the league. But that’s not to say we can’t go there and win.”
—Owen Coyle, head coach, Houston Dynamo
Someone to watch closely is the evergreen Dynamo captain, Brad Davis who gives his club an edge on set pieces: “The attitude is there, we’ve had some very good games agains them; obviously you look at our past with losing a couple of MLS Cup games. We’ve had some good battles so I think there’s respect on both sides there.”
However it’s still too early to make a call for this game. With both teams still geling together, I’d give the edge to LA since it’s their motto to always go extra hard for a convincing win at home, but I can see Houston pushing back.
“This is the kind of pick-me-up that you want, you want to go to supposedly one of the best teams, if not the best team, in the league in peoples’ opinions and you want to play well and get a result. Just to keep showing everyone the strides we’re making forward as well,”
—Giles Barnes, forward, Houston Dynamo
I’m expecting a lot of experimentation for the Galaxy in their lineup as they break away from their past and move towards a less predictable future while defending their Cup.