The LA Galaxy trek north this weekend to face off against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, April 2, 2016, at BC Place. Vancouver is coming off of back-to-back wins against Seattle Sounders and the Houston Dynamo so it will be interesting to see how the Galaxy plan to pull the plug on the Caps’ positive momentum.
One issue is whether the LA Galaxy will have any of their three Designated Players available to play this weekend. Based on the report from this morning’s training session, Steven Gerrard did not train today and will not be playing this Saturday. Giovani dos Santos, who has been nursing a nagging injury, is training and looks likely to travel to Vancouver and may suit up on Saturday. The Galaxy’s injury woes unfortunately do not end there. Earlier this week, the Republic of Ireland reported that Robbie Keane had sustained a knee injury and consequently did not participate in Ireland’s friendly against Slovakia. Fans may recall that it was during the away game against Vancouver last season that Robbie Keane suffered a groin injury that sidelined him for two months. BC Place, though an absolutely gorgeous stadium, uses a Polytan surface for its pitch due to the inclement weather in Vancouver, and it’s no secret that foreign imports often blanch at the prospect of playing on such surfaces. Thus, all three Galaxy Designated Players may miss the match against Vancouver. The Galaxy’s injury problems are compounded by the fact that the team is also contending with injuries to Dan Kennedy, Leonardo, Jose Villareal and Jeff Larentowicz.
Like many teams, the LA Galaxy are only just starting to get their bearings for the 2016 Season. Thus far, the LA Galaxy defense has stood up well against the pressure exerted by other teams, though it is worth noting that none of the teams the Galaxy has faced thus far this season (DC United, Colorado Rapids, San Jose Earthquakes) are among the offensive powerhouses in MLS. Vancouver, on the other hand, is a very attacking team, with youth and pace to burn – it will be a stern test for the far older and slower veteran squad Bruce Arena has assembled, particularly given the less than stellar output by the LA Galaxy’s offense thus far this season. This is doubly true since the Galaxy will be playing without Gerrard and Keane, and possibly dos Santos. Further, Gyasi Zardes, who normally would step in as the Galaxy’s striker in Keane’s absence, is returning from two grueling national team games against Guatemala – the Galaxy coaching staff may be tempted to rest him.
There is no better opportunity to test the LA Galaxy’s much-vaunted depth than a game in which the Galaxy play without Gerrard, Keane, dos Santos and Zardes, and the Galaxy coaching staff may indeed be planning to play some fresh faces this weekend. Despite the fact that Ariel “Goal Puppy” Lassiter is the first-choice striker for Los Dos, Lassiter did not suit up for the LA Galaxy II’s game against St. Louis FC this week, which suggests the Galaxy front staff were saving him for this weekend’s game. In the absence of Gerrard, Keane, dos Santos and Zardes, the Galaxy can still cobble together an attack comprised of its remaining offensive players, including Alan Gordon, Mike Magee, Bradford Jamieson IV, Emmanuel Boateng, Raul Mendiola, Jose Villareal (if healthy) and the aforementioned Goal Puppy. In a pinch, it wouldn’t be crazy to play Sebastian Lletget as a creative Number 10, since he spent much of his youth career in that position.
Vancouver has its own issues to deal with; the MLS Disciplinary Committee announced that 25-year-old forward Masato Kudo, who joined Vancouver during the offseason from Kashiwa Reysol in the J-League, has been suspended for one match and fined an undisclosed amount for simulation in the 22nd minute of Vancouver’s game against Houston on March 26. Kudo will serve his suspension during Vancouver’s game against the Galaxy this weekend.
Kudo is not the only player new to Vancouver’s ranks this season. Like the Galaxy, the Whitecaps quickly made use of its targeted allocation money (TAM) by signing both winger Cristian Techera from Uruguayan side Club Atlético River Plate Montevideo and midfielder Christian Bolaños from Costa Rica’s Primera División side Deportivo Saprissa to multi-year deals. Vancouver has had great success signing foreign imports from the smaller leagues of South America and both Techer and Bolaños could have a big impact for the Caps this season.
The ever-tenacious Panamanian striker Blas Perez also joined the Caps during the offseason from FC Dallas, which raised eyebrows among at least a few fans given that Perez has tangled horns with several Whitecaps players in the past, including David Ousted, Kendall Waston and Jordan Harvey. In exchange, the Caps traded their rights to Mauro Rosales to FC Dallas. The Caps also signed Ousted, who played brilliantly for them last season, to a contract extension, and traded Steven Beitashour to Toronto FC.
The Galaxy have a 8-3-2 record against Vancouver all time and a 1-2-2 record at BC Place. Saturday marks the first of three matchups between the Galaxy and the Whitecaps this season, with the two sides set to meet again on July 4 and Aug. 27. The LA Galaxy game against Vancouver starts at 7 p.m. (PDT) and will be broadcast on Time Warner Cable SportsNet and TSN2.