Gaze into the LA Galaxy Sunday night for Star Sightings.
LA Galaxy (10-4-14) are ready for a new beginning, and not just because of their newest star addition. Right on the heels of a heartbreaking last-minute draw in Utah to Western Conference rivals, Real Salt Lake, the Galaxy are set to face Kaká, Brek Shea, and the resurgent Orlando City FC (7-7-13) under Jason Kreis tomorrow at home, in what may also be the first match Landon Donovan reappears in.
Donovan’s return for the remainder of the 2016 season was announced two days ago and today marked his first full practice with the team so his minutes if he sees any at all tomorrow, will likely be minimal. The realistic but hopeful Bruce Arena was careful with reporters to not raise the bar of expectations for both tomorrow or the season too high. “We have to try to get Landon to a place where he can run well enough to touch a soccer ball. We’ll see. I don’t think we know the [timetable]. There’s no science to it right now. He had a good week of training from what I’m told by our training staff. We’ll keep him progressing each day and hopefully get him to a point where he can help our team.”
However, fans can be hopeful that two of their favorites are more than likely to return from injury. Both Robbie Keane (groin injury) and Jelle Van Damme (MCL sprain) appear set to return to the pitch tomorrow, though Steven Gerrard is still on the mend. In Gerrard’s absence Sebastien Lletget has more than been able to step in and fill his shoes, bringing both creativity and speed to LA’s midfield. Robbie Keane, meanwhile, is hopeful about a return to the action, even though Arena would not commit to a definitive plan.
“I’m good. I trained today. I’m feeling good and ready for Sunday,” Keane explained to reporters on Friday. “I had a groin problem before I left [for international duty] and I didn’t play the Vancouver game before I left, I was still struggling from being out.”
Keane, Van Damme expected to play for #LAGalaxy vs Orlando City Sun. Gerrard still out. Donovan likely to play off bench
— Kevin Baxter (@kbaxter11) September 10, 2016
Tomorrow marks the first time Orlando City SC has come to StubHub Center and just the teams’ second meeting since their inaugural season in which the newcomers dominated LA 4-0. Orlando’s midweek road match ended on a much sweeter note than LA’s this week, numbing Montreal Impact in a 4-1 win in which Kaká notched two of their 4 goals and pushing them into the Eastern Conference’s final playoff slot. Their hopes are high for a playoff run and with LA Galaxy’s starting lineup still in flux, even with the return of Robbie Keane and Jelle Van Damme, a heated performance by Giovani dos Santos on Wednesday, positive growth from Emmanuel Boateng and Raul Mendiola, Lletget’s consistently high level pressure in the midfield and a potential appearance by Landon Donovan (who himself has pointed out that it may be better to play it safe rather than have him contribute to a bad play if he’s brought out there too soon), fans still do not know what to expect from the home team. Adding more factors to the equation is the return of Cyle Larin, Orlando’s leading scorer (with 13 goals, compared to Dos Santos’ 12), fresh off his international duty with Canada.
Last year, Brek Shea, Kaká, and Cyle Larin all scored against LA Galaxy in the 4-0 rout in Orlando. Brian Rowe’s performance since his head injury has caused some doubt, especially given his errors on Wednesday, but he’s been one of the better goalkeepers in MLS all season and if he can use those as learning lessons, he could be up for tomorrow’s offensive challenge. LA Galaxy have only won two in their last ten league matches and with just 5 matches remaining after tomorrow, time is running out to get on a hot streak heading into the playoffs.
All eyes are on LA tomorrow (4 p.m. PT, Fox Sports 1) and whether a boost from former leader Donovan can help set things right again. “The reason I’m here is to help win a championship,” Landon Donovan declares.