With the Timbers set to take on the L.A. Galaxy in Portland’s final home game of March, we got in touch with Mike Gray of our sister site, LAG Confidental, to answer a few questions about the state of the Galaxy heading into the weekend.
SF: In last week's easy 2-0 win over the Chicago Fire, the Galaxy played Jose Villarreal and Kenney Walker while Baggio Husidic came off the bench and new signing Mika Väyrynen was not available for selection. Do you expect the same on Sunday, or do you think Arena will make changes in the Galaxy midfield?
MG: Bruce likes to tells us as little as possible by design, however last week he mentioned the central midfield would be rotated for a month or two until he figures out the right partnership. With Portland's scoring woes, I would expect the more defensive Kenney Walker to make way for Baggio Husidic or Mika Väyrynen, while Jose Villarreal continues to start on the left wing.
SF: With Steven Gerrard not expected to join the team until midsummer, what are the Galaxy's early-season expectations? Does this team have the feeling of some past Bruce Arena teams in which the goal was to survive until summer, then climb up the table in the second half?
MG: You pretty much nailed it. I refer to this period as the post-Landon Donovan era, or if you read Matt Doyle on the MLS website, the pre-Steven Gerrard era. As far as expectations go, Bruce just wants to get fitness, chemistry, everything up to speed. Developing some of the younger attackers like Villarreal, Bradford Jamieson IV and rookie Nacho Maganto is a priority. The results will come: Despite losing Landon Donovan and Marcelo Sarvas, the Galaxy are still an incredibly talented team and there shouldn't be too much of a drop off. By the time LA are performing at their peak, Steven Gerrard arrives, and that's when things get tricky.
SF: Reports about Jaime Penedo's omission from the lineup last week appear to be a little bit uncertain. Can you shed some light on the situation with Penedo and whether you expect Eugene-native Brian Rowe to start against the Timbers?
MG: Spanish channel UniMas reported during last week's telecast that Penedo sat out due to contract negotiations, though the Galaxy and Penedo were quick to deny the rumor. I get the feeling Bruce is annoyed with Penedo for accepting an international call-up with Panama while still not fully fit for LA and wanted to send a message. Bruce runs a relaxed operation, but its his ship, and sometimes he has to pull rank. It wouldn't be shocking to see Rowe in goal this afternoon.