The season's first Portland Timbers - LA Galaxy encounter comes on Sunday morning at Providence Park with both teams currently sitting below the playoff line. With injuries, upcoming national team call ups other interesting circumstances surrounding the Galaxy, we turn to SB Nation's Galaxy blog, LAG Confidential, to give us an idea of what to expect. As always, Josie Becker helped out and did her best to explain the shortened season and how it leads into Sunday morning's game:
1. Is Omar Gonzalez going to play? If not, who is his replacement and what is the impact on the Galaxy, particularly on set pieces?
Bruce Arena is on record saying that Omar Gonzalez will be fine, which I'm pretty sure is Bruce Arena of saying he's questionable and might not go. If we take into account Gonzalez' injury history, the upcoming World Cup, and the fact that Portland's mayor 3D printed the Timbers' pitch, I don't expect Gonzalez to be in the eighteen for this weekend's tilt.
When Gonzalez was removed against Colorado, Kofi Opare came in as his replacement and performed admirably. Leonardo has completely lost favor amongst LA Galaxy fans due to his ten cent head, but I do expect the two of them to be the center back pairing this weekend. Also interesting is the possibility of Robbie Rogers coming in at Left Back. It would be great for overlapping runs, but does LA need two defensive liabilities on the back line? However, if say Rogers starts at left back, Gargan shifts over, and DeLaGarza starts with Opare then one liability has been eliminated.
Gonzalez had like a month where he was killer on set pieces and now he's the set piece king. However, teams were pretty quick to double team/scratch/pull/greco-roman wrestle Gonzalez in the penalty area. Unless Rob Friend is out there, the Galaxy are fairly ineffective off set pieces.
2. So if Robbie Keane doesn't score, the Galaxy don't get a result, right?
Robbie Keane at this point is the Galaxy attack, as he was for much of last season. The new target forwards Bruce Arena brought in have combined for one goal in all competitions, so perhaps they're just regular type forwards. Part of that is Arena switching to a diamond formation with Donovan up top to get both Stefan Ishizaki and Baggio Husidic directly involved with the attack.
In truth, it's those midfield positions that have mean the most to LA thus far. Ishizaki is the only other player with multiple goals on the season, and it's their distribution that has opened things up for Robbie Keane. So it isn't a one man show, even if there only seems to be one man finishing at the moment.
3. Would Landon Donovan wait to break the MLS scoring record at home instead of on the road? Additionally, why hasn't he scored yet?
Every time Donovan has failed to break the scoring record, since he tied the record late last season, there has been an excuse. He wouldn't want to break the record on the road, he wouldn't want to break the record on a penalty.
Folks act like when Donovan breaks the record Don Garber is going to come out with the long lost Jules Rimet trophy and present it to Donovan along with the keys to a used Bugatti Veyron. True story: I was in the Bay Area when Barry Bonds broke the Home Run record. The Giants were terrible, but they'd sell out the stadium with fans who would leave after Bonds' last at bat. There were logos, there was a counter, there was merchandise.
Note that none of that has been done for Donovan. They'll make sure they get the ball Donovan breaks the record with, the crowd will likely be extra loud if it's at home. Even if it's on the road, any MLS crowd with a sense of history is going to give a standing ovation. He's just cold, not calculating. Bonds went through the same slumps going for his record.