With two big holes in their lineup, can the LA Galaxy get a pivotal road win against the San Jose Earthquakes? In just a scant few hours, we’ll find out.

In their disappointing midweek draw against Montreal, the Galaxy lost more than just points. They also lost the services of two key players – Landon Donovan and Dan Gargan – due to yellow card accumulation. That means both will have to sit out Sunday’s game, and Bruce Arena will need to find a lineup that can get a result. After Wednesday, that’s worrisome.

To recap: LA came out in an usual 3–5–2 against the Montreal Impact, a formation aggressively aimed at slotting home a couple quick goals. It backfired. Badly. Montreal went up 2-nil on the Galaxy by half, and only after retreating to their tried-and-true 4–4–2 were LA able to claw their way back to an even scoreline.

That result set the stakes for San Jose. I think Donovan put it best:

“It’s frustrating because we wanted to get three points. But one point is better than none and we have to go to San Jose with the attitude that we have to win the game, and that’s what we will do.”
—Landon Donovan

At San Jose they’ll have to be smarter. The Galaxy’s roster of defenders is looking bare — they’ll likely slot in Tommy Meyer to take Gargan’s spot. Replacing Donovan is theoretically easier: it’s just a matter of plugging in Baggio Husidic and Stefan Ishizaki on either wing. Whether or not anyone can make up for Donovan’s team-leading assists (15 this year!) is another question entirely.

But it’s not all grim for the Galaxy. San Jose is in the midst of a particularly bad year, with only six wins to their name. The teams have met twice this season, and LA never lost — although the Quakes did manage a 2–2 tie against them at the beginning of August.

For LA, the stakes are simple: to keep pace with the Seattle Sounders in the Supporters’ Shield race, this game is a must-win. The two California sides square off at noon, and we’ll get a good look at whether the Galaxy can bounce back from a rough midweek.