Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Week 5: Galaxy @ San Jose [The California Clasico]

Los Angeles Galaxy vs. San Jose Earthquakes
Saturday, April 18th , 2008 – 7:30pm
Oakland Coliseum
TV: DK, FS-W, Match Center

Quick Hits

Los Angeles Galaxy
Conference Position: 7th (-1)
League Position: 12th (--)
Form: D-L-D
Last Match: 0-0 vs. Chivas USA
Next Match: at Colorado Rapids (DSG Park)

San Jose Earthquakes
2008 Conference Position: 6th
2008 League Position: 10th
Form: L-W-L-D
Last Match: 3-3 vs. Chicago Fire
Next Match: vs. Seattle Sounders FC (Qwest Field)

Last Meeting: 08/14/08 – 08/03/08 – San Jose 3-2 LA Galaxy (Oakland Coliseum)

The good news about facing off against the San Jose Earthquakes is that the first two times Galaxy played them in 2008 were the only two shutouts the team had all season. The bad news is that the last time the two sides met, the Earthquakes left Galaxy without a manager. Bruce Arena will once again have to make some changes due to suspension in facing a much better San Jose group than the one Ruud Gullit faced early last season. Galaxy need three points and they need them sooner rather than later to keep the leaders from getting away.

Keeping the Sheets Clean

This week, despite remaining winless in all competitions and having been eliminated from the US Open Cup in penalty kicks, Galaxy managed something they had not done in quite some time. The team put together back-to-back shutouts.

Galaxy’s last league shutout took place almost a year ago when the Angelinos visited the San Jose Earthquakes. The last time Galaxy put together back to back clean sheets in official matches was during August/September of 2006. Galaxy followed a 2-0 victory over Cinderella side Dallas Roma in the Us Open Cup with a 1-0 victory visiting the Houston Dynamo.

That season, Galaxy surprisingly enjoyed the second best defensive unit in the league, finishing with 37 goals allowed, thanks in part to a 5 game streak without a goal allowed. Galaxy ended up missing the playoffs by 2 points, thanks in part to the third worst offense in the league which went, at one point, an entire month without scoring.

Frank Yallop’s answer was, incomprehensively, to ship off Kevin Hartman, Tyrone Marshall, Todd Dunivant and Ugo Ihemelu in order to bring in Joe Cannon.

Not surprisingly, the team has been an absolute mess in the back end since then. Galaxy has had one of the worst defensive units in the league for two years straight, and the inability to keep clean sheets for more than one game at a time, or more than twice a season, has been a huge obstacle that’s kept the team from the playoffs.

Heading into San Jose, Galaxy has a chance to make it three straight and start to get a taste of what it’s like to defend well. Unfortunately, Gregg Berhalter, the man who anchored the backline in both clean-sheet efforts will be suspended for this match after having been sent off in the second half of the LA Derby.

San Jose has not been particularly strong in front of goal so far. They’ve been kept scoreless twice already, but they have dangerous weapons up front and Galaxy’s backline will have to pay special attention if they hope to make it three clean sheets in a row.

Movable Type

It may seem early in the season, too early, to be dealing with personnel issues, but Galaxy is already having to make do with changes here, there and everywhere.

First off, Bruce Arena has had to send out 3 different line-ups for its three league games. Three games into the season, and Galaxy’s already making use of almost all the players it has available. Both goalkeepers have already taken the field; six of the nine defenders have done the same. In midfield, the only player that hasn’t played a game is in Italy, and five of the team’s seven listed forwards have gotten their chances on the field.

On the one hand, the roster movement is encouraging. Naturally, some players have better performances than others and it is easy to see why they are considered “starters” over those that aren’t. For the most part, however, the team has not yet been completely broken down by an opponent.

Bruce Arena has worked very diligently in making sure that this team has ‘movable parts’ and that everybody know the system and that one absence does not disassemble the whole.

This week will be yet another test to Bruce Arena’s ‘movable type’ format. The manager will have his hand forced in making moves, partly due to suspension, and partly due to players who may finally be ready to return from injury.

Alan Gordon and Gregg Berhalter will be watching the game on TV like the rest of us this time, serving suspension for their respective ejections in the match against Chivas USA.

Dema Kovalenko, meanwhile, will be returning to action having served a suspension of his own for a red card received in the Week 3 matchup against Colorado.

On the other hand, Edson Buddle and Todd Dunivant seem to be nearing return, and the match against San Jose may be the best time to get the remaining pieces fitted into the puzzle.

Galaxy Injury Report

OUT - Leonard Griffin (Sports Hernia Surgery - Disabled List)
QUESTIONABLE - Edson Buddle (Right Quad - Strain), Todd Dunivant (Right Ankle - Post Surgery)
PROBABLE - Mike Magee (Right Foot - Bruise), Donovan Ricketts (Right Groin - Strain)

Caasi's Expected Starting XI


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