Not a single Designated Player took the field for the Galaxy last weekend and this Sunday’s match could see more of the same. Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane are both out with injuries. Though Giovani dos Santos was not listed as injured last weekend, he did not play in the Galaxy’s scoreless draw against Vancouver. However, he has participated in full training throughout the week and some minutes, either as a sub or a 60 minute starter, should be expected. Portland DP Liam Ridgewell is also currently out with a hamstring injury, which means the only ‘high-priced’ players to take the pitch come Sunday, if Dos Santos doesn’t return, could be Diego Valeri and Lucas Melano.
If the formation Bruce Arena plays is consistent with what fans have seen in recent weeks, then Arena will deploy Sebastian Lletget as a withdrawn forward in place of Keane with Baggio Husidic and Nigel De Jong assuming responsibility in central midfield. With Keane, dos Santos and Gerrard absent, Lletget could be the Galaxy’s most creative offensive weapon. Indeed, Lletget’s passing, distribution and vision make him a potent attacking midfielder, and the Santa Clara native freely admits he enjoys playing in a forward position, as opposed to the wide midfield position where he has spent most of his time as a Galaxy player:
“More growing up I played there [forward],.. It’s more natural for me, to be honest. But I can play out wide, and that’s fine with me, too… I was more excited than anything because I knew I could do it. It’s a big responsibility. I know I can be that guy and be the link between the striker and the midfield. I’m sure down the line I can see myself playing there….I’ll keep trying, trying and trying until I get it right. Nobody can tell me anything different. I know what I need to do and I’ll get it done.” – Sebastian Lletget
As for Portland, like most teams in the league, the MLS Champions are off to a mixed start, with only one win in the first four regular season MLS games, and Portland is coming off an ugly 4-1 loss in Orlando last weekend. In fact, since Liam Ridgewell got injured, the Timbers have taken only one point in their last three games. Though such a turnabout would seem strange on foreign shores, parity rules in MLS and no one knows better than the Galaxy how swiftly a team’s fortunes can sour – even for last year’s Cinderella story Timbers.
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Which is not to say that Galaxy fans can breathe easy this weekend. After all, the Galaxy were brutalized 4-0 last year when they played away in Orlando – expecting players to acclimate to sweltering heat and humidity following a six hour flight from the West Coast to South Florida is a big ask. Portland will no doubt be hungry for a win and though the Galaxy have a good home record against Portland, their last encounter on October 18, 2015, resulted in Portland hammering five goals past LA’s backline during a humiliating home defeat.
Even without big names on the field, LA Galaxy fans will still want to see some stardust on Sunday. The game will be broadcast on FoxSports 1 and MLS Live for those watching at home.