Two storied franchises face off tomorrow at RFK Stadium, the reigning champions in the Los Angeles Galaxy and DC United. The Galaxy now have the lead for MLS championships after winning last season, bringing their total to five. United is right behind them, having won four titles. The head coaches have known each other for over twenty years, both in a coach to player relationship as well as peers in the coaching ranks. DC’s Ben Olsen has yet to beat his mentor, it’s a classic example of a teacher and their pupil. The Galaxy have yet to surrender a loss to the Black-and-Red in their last ten contests, be it win or draw. None of which matters come game time Saturday as the Galaxy look to continue their streak and DC looks to not only end the streak but rebound from last week’s loss in New York.
Los Angeles has won a game and tied their two other contests, so the reigning champions have yet to lose this season. The Galaxy like the Red Bulls, are missing a key player from last season. MLS star Landon Donovan has retired, that doesn’t mean that LA should be taken lightly. They will also be without several players, namely their two starting forwards due to national team obligations in Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes. Which has led to much speculation as to who will be stepping up in their absence, will it be just one player or several?
The first two players that come to mind are Alan Gordon and Edson Buddle, two big, physical forwards. One of their younger players has had past experiences playing up front as well in Villareal, no matter who’s up there, they will present a formidable challenge to United’s back line. Olsen shared his thoughts on Gordon and what he brings to the table, “Alan’s a very athletic, competitive, son of a b****.” Olsen had nothing but respect for the veteran forward and expects him to be a key part of the Galaxy attack no matter if he’s starting or coming off of the bench.
United’s right back Sean Franklin is very familiar with the opposing team, he was traded from the Galaxy to United last season. He’s looking forward to seeing “old friends’ but definitely “wants to get a win.” He’s played for both Bruce and Ben, this being his second year with Ben. The differences of the two being that he see’s Ben as being more of a ‘rah-rah type guy” and Bruce as ‘more chill’.
Similar to last week’s opponent, the Galaxy have a very good midfield. Even with the noted absences, Olsen said “It doesn’t change the way they play, they’re still a very good team.” This is a deep and talented roster for LA, they certainly won’t mail it in, DC will have to go out and earn it. Robbie Rodgers and Juninho are two players that have the ability to heavily impact the game, similar to Dax and Kljestan last week. Where it seemed that no scoring chance occurred without their having to do with it.
One of the positives in last week’s loss was that United got experience against a dangerous midfield, even though they loss there is much that can be carried over into tomorrow’s matchup with the Galaxy. Steven Birnbaum said as much, “It was a good lesson for us.” That experience last week will be paramount against a team with a creative midfield, no matter who’s playing forward, it’s the midfield that will be finding them or servicing them and LA has some good ones.
The Black-and-Red are starting to get healthy, as the weeks go by they will certainly look like a different team. Olsen mentioned that their schedule is “front heavy” so it’s imperative that they have available bodies to get through the first part of the schedule.
Olsen alluded to his team being “passive” at times last week against the Red Bulls, specifically in the first half. Stating that they have to be on the attack against the Galaxy The back line had a few gaffes last week against New York, they can’t afford to have any against LA.
Last week, DC wasn’t able to take advantage of a young back line. While the Galaxy don’t have a young group back there, United will have their hands full trying to crack a very good defense. Chris Rolfe shared his thoughts on that daunting task, ” It’s going to be challenging, but I think we’re going to need a lot of movement up top. Also, runs from deep, it’s going to be very important for us.”
KEYS to the Game
- Possess the ball, DC has looked good when they took care and took time with the ball. They can’t afford the sloppy passes that have plagued them in the first two games
- Attack, attack, attack. Don’t wait to counter, start the game aggressively
- Rolfe stated that there has to be more “movement” up front, should definitely keep an eye on players making runs for Jairo Arrieta
- Back line must win in the air, whether it’s Buddle or Gordon. Those two will be serviced through the air early and often when they are on the field
*****Bigger than Sports***
Maryland native AJ DeLaGarza is teaming up with DC United for a donation drive to support the Ronald McDonald house in DC as well as the American Heart Association. This is being done to honor DeLaGarza’s late son Luca who passed from Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. The DeLaGarza family will be in Lot 8 tomorrow at RFK accepting donations as well as tailgaiting.