On Saturday the LA Galaxy travel to Houston for the final game of a so-far disappointing stint on the road. LA showed good form last week against the Portland Timbers, but only managed one goal from 21 shots and settled for a draw. Now they’re faced with the challenge of trying to be more productive while missing a couple key players.
Both teams will be feeling the effects of the impending World Cup. The Galaxy will be without both Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez, while Houston will be down Brad Davis. Losing Omar is yet another blow to LA’s already-hobbled defense, but at least we know what to expect from his replacement: Kofi Opare put in a full 90 in Gonzalez’s place against Portland, and the 23-year-old held his own.
It’s Donovan whose absence leaves a bigger hole. With Robbie Rogers back on the bench, he’s an option to step in — but it’s Gyasi Zardes that Bruce Arena turned to when he needed a late sub against Portland, and he strikes me as the more likely choice. Historically Gyasi hasn’t been the best on the wing. Yet we’ve seen so little of him this year it’s hard to know what to expect. Zardes was a welcome burst of energy against Portland. But that was just 13 minutes — going a full 90 is wholly different challenge.
Saturday is our chance to see how Arena is going to handle these World Cup absences. Will he stick to the diamond formation that allowed such dynamic, roving possession against a Portland? Or, forced to field less experienced players, does he fall back on a tried-and-true 4-4-2? Teams across the league are facing absences in the wake of the National Team call ups — how each club deals with it will be a big part of any team’s success going forward.