Carson, CA – This Saturday night, the LA Galaxy will face off against an in-form Real Salt Lake, which remains the lone unbeaten team in MLS this season. The LA Galaxy themselves are coming off a strong away performance against Houston last Friday night, which saw Giovani dos Santos score the first multiple-goal game of his MLS career in his 13th league appearance and earned him MLS Player of the Week honors from the North American Soccer Reporters (NASR). The Galaxy are now undefeated in their last four games.
Coach Jeff Cassar is doubtlessly pleased with how RSL gotten off the blocks in 2016. Joao Plata, RSL’s wee yet spry Ecuadorian forward, has been producing in spades for the Utah-based outfit, having scored four goals and gotten four assists for the year, among RSL’s 10 goals scored this season. In what promises to be a visually arresting big man/small man matchup, Jelle Van Damme will have to keep his eye out for the fleet-footed Plata.
Per usual, injuries and suspensions will play a role in the Galaxy’s Starting XI on Saturday, yet the absence of some players has also opened up opportunities for others. While Dan Kennedy has been out for the past month with a partial groin-tear, Brian Rowe has been performing ably as the Galaxy’s starting keeper. Though perhaps a bit mistake-prone in years past, Rowe has been playing very clean in Kennedy’s absence. It is entirely reasonable to conclude that when Kennedy returns to form Bruce Arena may elect to relegate Kennedy to the bench in light of Rowe’s strong performances.
Similarly, Robbie Keane is recuperating from knee surgery and Nigel de Jong is still serving his three-game suspension for the tackle on Darlington Nagbe two weeks ago (Nagbe has since returned to training). Keane’s absence opened up room for Giovani dos Santos to slot into the withdrawn central forward position last Friday and he certainly seemed well-suited for the position. Similarly, while all-purpose Bulletproof Baggio Husidic is not a like for like replacement for Nigel de Jong, the Galaxy’s midfield performed well in Houston, mostly due to the fact that Steven Gerrard had one of his best performances as a Galaxy player. Gerrard’s touch on the assist for Giovani dos Santos’ second goal was like silk:
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) April 16, 2016
And while Robbie Rogers was out with a hip contusion last week (he was back to training this week), the Galaxy’s defensive line stood up well against Houston’s forwards, with AJ DeLaGarza getting one shot on goal and Ashley Cole continuing to quiet all haters with nifty displays of skill like this:
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) April 17, 2016
Now, to be fair, the LA Galaxy’s win last Friday was as much attributable to the collective defensive suicide committed by Houston’s back-line as it was to the Galaxy’s good form. RSL is backed by a much sturdier defense and will not roll over for the Galaxy. If Robbie Rogers is fully healthy, it would be nice to see Rogers return to the right flank, which would allow DeLaGarza to play at center-back in lieu of Daniel Steres.
The LA Galaxy and RSL have met several times in the last five years in the MLS Cup Playoffs. The Galaxy have advanced on two occasions, including in 2014’s Western Conference Semifinals, when they took the series after a 5-0 win in the second leg at StubHub Center. The teams also met in MLS Cup 2009, RSL winning in a penalty shootout.
The game is this Saturday, April 23, at 7:30 p.m. PT live on Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Time Warner Cable Deportes. Fans should take note that MLS announced new elevated security standards for all MLS games this week and will be prohibited from bringing any of the following into the StubHub Center: Large purses, Coolers, Briefcases, Backpacks, Luggage of any kind, Computer bags, Camera bags or any bag larger than 14’’ x 14’’ x 6’’.