Guest columnist Drew Epperley is the founder and editor of WVHooligan.com. His blog covers everything MLS and U.S. Soccer. You can follow him on Twitter @WVHooligan.
FC Dallas (5-10-7, 22 points) finishes out a two-game home stand Saturday night against the Los Angeles Galaxy (9-10-3, 30 points).
LA is missing a key player for this match. Landon Donovan is suspended due to yellow card accumulation.
Still unknown is the status of David Beckham, who is in London for the Olympic Opening Ceremonies. LA manager Bruce Arena has kept a tight lip on whether or not the Englishman would be apart of his game day roster and Friday morning said he hasn’t ruled him out for Saturday.
The Galaxy have won three out of their last four including a 3-1 win last weekend over their SuperClasico rivals Chivas USA.
Dallas and LA tied their previous meeting back in April. Pat Noonan scored a stoppage-time goal to salvage the point for the Galaxy. At the time it was Dallas’ first road point of the season.
Changes up top
Without Donovan and possibly Beckham, the Galaxy will have to lean heavily on Irish international Robbie Keane to pick up the load. The Designated Player has nine goals and five assists on the season.
Due to the injuries to Edson Buddle and the suspension of Donovan, Keane could be partnered with home grown striker Jose Villarreal. The teen star has come on well for the Galaxy in his first couple of games. He scored a game-tying goal in Vancouver a couple weeks ago that made the highlight reels.
Chad Barrett is also another option up top for Arena. So far this season Barrett has scored one goal and provided three assists.
LA is also hoping to get midfielder Mike Magee back from injury. The 27-year old has been a big part of the LA attack since late last year.
Should Beckham not return from his trip overseas, the Galaxy may lean more on center midfielder Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas. Juninho should start either way in the midfield along side Beckham or Sarvas.
Arena also has Michael Stephens and Hector Jimenez on the bench that he can turn to in a pinch. Both have seen time this season on the field and are more than capable of carrying the load for extended amounts of time.
The big issue all season long for the Galaxy has been their central defense. A.J. DeLaGarza, Leonardo, David Junior Lopes and Andrew Boyens all split time with one another in the middle of the defender.
Now Dallas-native Omar Gonzalez appears to be back from his knee injury that kept him out of the first half of the season. Gonzalez went 63 minutes on Tuesday in a friendly against English side Tottenham – his longest stint on the field since his injury.
Gonzalez could see his minutes increase in this one and go the full 90 alongside DeLaGarza or Leonardo.
The fullback situation should change for the Galaxy as left back Todd Dunivant and right back Sean Franklin have both been staples of the club so far this season.
Starting in goal is keeper Josh Saunders, who is finally back to full strength after spending some time off in the league’s substance abuse program.
Keys to three points
LA’s big resurgence since the beginning of June relied on the big three of Donovan, Keane and Beckham stepping up. Those three have combined for a lot of LA’s goals as of late.
Should Beckham play, closing down his open space in the midfield will be key. Beckham found plenty of room a couple weeks ago in Portland and ended up with two goals because of it.
With Donovan out, Keane will be the primary target for the Galaxy. Dallas will need to make sure that he doesn’t get too many extra dribbles in and around the penalty box.
Offensively, Dallas needs to remain on form from their big 5-0 win last week over Portland. Using the width of the field and spreading the Galaxy out to chase the game will go a long way in ending up with points from this one.
The confidence is there after the big win last week for Dallas to begin going on a positive run of their own – it will really be all about using that confidence to their advantage and making something of it.