Sometimes good things happen when they are least expected. Any outsider looking at this game on Saturday (7:30 p.m. PT, watch live on Sportsnet Pacific, listen on TEAM 1410 radio, or watch on your Bell mobile device) will see a miss-match between the home team LA Galaxy – who have seven shutouts in fourteen home games and are the top team in the Major League Soccer – and the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps FC – who are in last position in the MLS and are yet to win on the road.
Thankfully games are not played on paper. If we look back our home game against the Galaxy on July 30 at Empire Field, the ‘Caps were the better team in the first half hour, and with the score 0-0 early in the second half, Shea Salinas hit the inside of the post on a shot that would have given Vancouver a 1-0 lead. That was a game changer, as Landon Donovan scored five minutes later to put LA 1-0 up and spur them on to a 4-0 victory.
If the Whitecaps can duplicate the first-half performance they had against LA at home – and the first half in New York against the Red Bulls for that matter – for a full 90 minutes, we can then expect the unexpected.
We know that the Galaxy will play a 4-4-2 formation and will try to dictate the pace of play especially at home. The one thing the Caps will have to do against this Galaxy team is keep the ball and make LA work hard to get it back. In the first half in New York, I thought we did this very well, and it enabled us to dictate the pace of the game for brief periods and create some good chances out of it. We cannot afford to sit back against LA and try to soak up the pressure, as they will get into a comfort zone and have us chasing shadows. The ‘Caps will no doubt have to defend for stretches in the game, and that’s why we will have to maintain our own possession to try and frustrate them when we have the ball.
David Beckham and Robbie Keane were not in the team when the Galaxy came to Empire last month, but I hope they will be suited up for this game, as I feel the ‘Caps players can raise their game and meet the challenge these great players present – just as we did in the first half of the New York game, as well as against a very good Seattle team. The Galaxy have a myriad of attacking weapons going forward, including Donavan and young Brazilian midfielder Juninho. On top of that, they have been very consistent in their defensive efforts.
The Galaxy are in the midst of nine games in 30 days, as they are juggling MLS and CONCACAF Champions League matches. This is something the ‘Caps can capitalize on. Looking at Whitecaps FC's position in the league and looking back on their 4-0 victory earlier this season, LA will probably be hoping to get a good start and make this into an easy game for themselves. There is a chance that the Galaxy will be overlooking this game, and if we can start strongly, a win may not be as unlikely as it seems...