Los Angeles Galaxy (2-2-3) 9 points, 7th West, 14th Overall
One quick glimpse at the standings will fool you into believing that the Galaxy are having a horrendous season by their standards. This does not mean that the Galaxy do not have the tools to become Major League Soccer champions for the 3rd time in 4 years.
Their squad has the leading scorer in Irish National Team history in Robbie Keane, arguably the best American soccer player of all-time in Landon Donovan, and one of the best mid-fielders in Major League Soccer Brazilian: Juninho. Fortunately for the Dynamo, Donovan (as well as Omar Gonzalez) was called up to the U.S. National Team’s provisional squad for the World Cup and will not play on Saturday.
Still, their attacking prowess is not to be taken lightly. Nobody will argue that their squad is incapable of making a deep run in the playoffs and competing for the Supporters Shield.
Keane currently has 5 goals in only 7 matches, which means he’s averaging almost a goal per match. He’s a player who can give any defense a run for their money. His scoring ability is complimented by the space that a player like Donovan can create by pulling defenders towards him.
The key question for the Galaxy is who plays that role to Keane in Donovan’s absence. Stefan Ishizaki has given the Galaxy a lift on set pieces and has the ability to hit that killer pass. Most likely, however, the Galaxy will look to Gyasi Zardes to be the playmaker. Zardes has been disappointing so far this season, but this is his chance to turn that around.
If Ishizaki or Zardes can step up, this alongside a midfield maestro like Juninho and the cleverness of Keane makes for a trio of players that can score at the first hint of a mental lapse by an opposing team.
While the Galaxy are currently on a 3 game win-less streak, they have only lost twice in seven regular season games. Having played fewer games than most teams in the league, they come to Houston knowing that a win can propel them towards the top of the table with a couple of games still in-hand. This makes them a very dangerous team.
Houston Dynamo (4-5-2) 14 points, 4th East, 9th Overall
Even though Houston is coming off of a 5-2 loss to Real Salt Lake. Houston fought hard the whole game despite being down a player due to a red card to Servando Carrasco in the first half and giving up a goal in the first fifteen seconds of the game. While they were down to ten men, they still outplayed RSL for portions of the game.
Brad Davis showed how effective he is on both sides of the ball, playing a great game defensively and offensively. Oscar Boniek Garcia showed glimpses of the player we all love by hustling for every 50/50 ball and making 40 yard sprints to aid our defenders in defending counter-attacks.
This is the Houston Dynamo team, that we all admire, the team that does not give-up and plays their heart out throughout the entire game even though the result isn’t on their side. The Dynamo team from Sunday’s defeat is the blue-collared team that has proved to the league every season that teams do not require big money players to be successful.
That attitude was not even the highlight of the game – and I know how ridiculous it seems to even be recalling highlights in a game that ended in a 3 goal difference. The true highlight was Mark Sherrod proving to us that we have had the forward we were looking for on our bench all along.
This time, however, the Dynamo will have to do it without Davis. Like Donovan, Davis was called into the provisional World Cup squad. Fortunately or the Dynamo, Garcia will be available to play in this match. He will depart following the match to meet up with his Honduran teammates to prepare for Brazil.
The center of the Dynamo midfield will be missing Ricardo Clark, still down with concussion and Servando Carrasco following his red card. This may force the Dynamo back into a 4-4-2 from the 4-3-3 that they have been playing. With Will Bruin back in training this week, we may see Giles Barnes stay in an attacking central midfielder role with Sherrod and Bruin starting together up top. If Bruin is not quite set to go, Omar Cummings could see his first start.
This game is very winnable for the Houston Dynamo. If Houston shows the kind of fighting attitude that they showed while they were down a player against Real Salt Lake, I have no doubt that the Dynamo will beat the L.A. Galaxy. Especially because this time the Dynamo have a chance to show that attitude with eleven players on the field, as opposed to being down a player.
Los Angeles has Keane and Juninho ready to pounce on a defensive lapse, but they require space to do that. If Houston defends like the whole team like they did against Real Salt Lake, they will not give Juninho the breathing room to create a chance for Keane to pounce on and score a goal.
Obviously this is all dependent on the way Houston approaches the game. Hopefully, Houston realizes that they should perform the way they did while down a player even while they are at level pegging.
Score: 3-1 Houston
L.A. Galaxy: Out- James Riley; Questionable – Marcelo Sarvas, Todd Dunivant, Leonardo
Houston: Out- Eric Brunner, Tony Cascio, Ricardo Clark
L.A. Galaxy: None
Houston: Servando Carrasco
L.A. Galaxy: Landon Donovan (USA), Omar Gonzalez (USA)
Houston Dynamo: Brad Davis (USA)
L.A. Galaxy: GK- Penedo; D- De La Garza, Opare, Leonardo, Gargan; M- Husidic, Juninho, Zardes, Ishizaki; F- Friend, Keane
Houston: GK- Hall; D- Ashe, Horst, Cochran, Sarkodie; M- Driver, Barnes, Creavalle, Garcia; F- Bruin, Sherrod
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