Hush now haters! Sure, it’s been a slow start for the reigning champs, but after a player of the week performance from goalkeeper Jaime “San” Penedo in a statement 1-0 win over rivals Seattle, a star performance from Gyasi Zardes for the USMNT against arch rivals Mexico mid-week, and with the return of captain Robbie Keane the LA Galaxy find themselves with a recipe for success.
Sporting Kansas City make the trip to the fortress that is the StubHub Center on Saturday where LA hasn’t lost in 24 games. SKC comes into the game undefeated in their last four following a scoreless draw with Real Salt Lake but will be missing star defender Ike Opara who limped off injured with a ruptured Achilles tendon in last weekend’s match. However, Head Coach Peter Vermes isn’t worried, “Look, we have guys – and like always, we’ve got to make it work.” He’ll be encouraged by midfielder Benny Feilhaber’s four assists to start the season, and with Dom Dwyer only netting once so far this year, he’s overdue for a goal-scoring tear.
Bruce Arena will be encouraged by having an entirely fit squad to choose from but there are positional battles all over the field that Arena has to address. Following a fairly convincing defensive performance against Seattle, we’ll most likely see the same backline, with the most dominant center-back pairing in the league of AJ DeLaGarza, and Omar Gonzalez who will be flying high following an impressive performance in the United States’ shutout against Mexico on Wednesday. With DeLaGarza back in the center, Dan Gargan’s spot should be safe on the right side. Robbie Rogers will most likely retain his spot as he offers more going forward on the left side, which leaves the question of where does Todd Dunivant fit into this Galaxy team?
I’d be lying if I told you I had any clue as to who will start in the midfield. Juninho is probably the only sure thing, with Ishizaki most likely operating on the right side, but the left side is absolutely up for grabs with Baggio Husidic and Jose Villareal both making cases for themselves with strong early performances. Rafa Garcia was praised by Bruce Arena for his work in the midfield, “He put in an excellent shift; very good 90 minutes. He is fit, and as you can see he is quite capable of switching the point of attacks. His passing distance was good…He is experienced. He has been with us for a number of years now. So he is quite capable of stepping up.” It was only his fourth career start against Seattle last weekend, will we see him make a fifth?
And although Alan Gordon scored his second goal of the season against the Sounders, we’ll almost certainly see him drop to the bench with Robbie Keane back healthy and Gyasi Zardes firing on all cylinders. But Gordon is happy to fill in whenever the team needs him, even if that’s coming off the bench, “I feel like that’s why I’m here, that’s why Bruce brought me. When guys are out and I’m called upon, it’s my job to step in and do a good job.”
“I feel like that’s why I’m here, that’s why Bruce brought me. When guys are out and I’m called upon, it’s my job to step in and do a good job.” —Alan Gordon
Almost every team has the game against the Galaxy circled on their calendars—who wouldn’t want to beat the defending champs— and it’s become a theme the Galaxy have faced since the second game of the season against Houston. But with a fully healthy team to pick from, LA can’t get complacent and there are no excuses this Saturday against Sporting Kansas City. I expect another impressive defensive outing and a few goals to go with it. With the taste of victory back in their mouths for the first time since the start of the season, it’s time for the LA Galaxy to get back on track to defending their MLS Cup title.