After a disastrous road series, the Los Angeles Galaxy will limp into the StubHub Center this Friday to face the Houston Dynamo. The good news: there are better teams in the league that the Galaxy could be facing. The bad news: the Galaxy are coming back home with an away record that has caused critics to question the stability and depth of the reigning MLS champions.
With the possible return of Robbie Keane to the field, the Galaxy are hungry for a win and desperate to defend their reputation as one of North American soccer’s premier teams.
HITTING THE PANIC BUTTON
Watching the Galaxy play in Orlando was endurance training for fans that are used to excellence. By the 75th minute I was ready for the game to be over and had not been that anxious for the whistle to blow since nervously watching the Galaxy hold on to victory in the final moments of MLS Cup 2014.
The difference between that Cup-worth team and this 2015 side has been nothing less than startling. With Robbie Keane’s injury, the departure of midfield maestro Marcelo Sarvas, and the retirement of Landon Donovan, the Galaxy have chalked up a subpar string of results that reveal a team mediocre at best.
Despite promising moments from the Galaxy’s youngest prospects, this team is struggling to look anything like the intimidating side they’ve been to opponents in the past.
THE HOUSTON GRIND
Despite being consistently mediocre, Houston is always a team to take seriously as they are very capable of grinding out hard-fought wins. With a recent history of losing two MLS Cups at the StubHub Center, Houston will also be a team that is still out for revenge in Los Angeles.
The Dynamo has a consistent attacking threat — forwards Will Bruin and Giles Barnes have scored a total of 10 goals this season. The Galaxy’s offensive attack is dismal, especially when you realize the team’s second leading scorer this season is Robbie Keane — a player who has missed a majority of the season so far.
Additionally, the Houston has a competent midfield, something that LA has struggled to field. Veteran player Brad Davis and Boniek Garcia provide service that will require LA to put in a defensive performance, one that doesn’t rely solely on the heroics of keeper Jaime Penedo.
THE GOOD NEWS
This Friday a rescue mission of sorts will be attempted on the pitch of the StubHub Center, as Robbie Keane announced at Wednesday’s practice that he is healthy enough to play for the first time in weeks.
However, fans should still approach this match cautiously optimistic. While an integral piece to success, the presence of Robbie Keane is not the lone source of inspiration this team is missing. Robbie Keane can only be as effective as his midfield allows him to be. Additionally, whether Robbie Keane is fit enough enough to play a full match is highly questionable and, as a result, fans should expect to see an improved version of what we have already seen but nothing drastic.
After possibly the worst performance of Tommy Meyer’s career, fans will be relieved to know that Omar Gonzalez also announced he is ready to play on Friday. Luckily, Houston carries a long tradition of being right in the middle of MLS power rankings. The steadily mediocre MLS side sits two places above the Galaxy in the Western Conference, with just two more points from the season so far.
The truth is, with Robbie Keane approaching match fitness and the return of Omar Gonzalez’s defensive reliability, these two sides should be prepared to give each other a nearly equal fight. Of course, in writing that previous sentence I’m hoping that Bruce Arena and the Galaxy internalized at least a few of the lessons learned in Orlando.