The last time LA Galaxy battled Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Empire Field, Landon Donovan scored two goals – including the match winner – in a 4-0 victory over the ‘Caps back on July 30. The contest was an impressive display from the Galaxy – who played without star midfielder David Beckham during his one-match suspension from yellow card accumulation.
Fast-forward seven weeks and LA Galaxy will have a slightly different look at The Home Depo Center on Saturday (7:30 p.m. PT, watch live on Sportsnet Pacific, listen on TEAM 1410 radio, or watch on your Bell mobile device) then they had in Vancouver back in July. Not only do the Galaxy boast the league’s leading goalscorer (12) in Donovan and second leading assist man (12) in Beckham – though the latter is questionable for the match due to back spasms – they also now have a new celebrity who has dawned the ‘dark blue and gold’ colours as the club seeks a berth in the 2011 MLS Cup at their home stadium in November.
On August 15, just before the close of the international transfer window, the Galaxy introduced their third ‘Designated Player’ signing in former English Premier League goalscorer Robbie Keane. The captain of the Irish national team – who ranks ninth in Tottenham Hotspurs history for goals and 10th on the all-time English Premier League goalscoring list (123) – added the final piece to the Galaxy puzzle and arguably completed the greatest trio ever assembled in Major League Soccer (MLS) history. Keane’s impact was immediate in his first match with LA Galaxy against San Jose Earthquakes on August 20, as the 31-year-old striker quickly scored his first ever MLS goal in the 21st minute to help propel Los Angeles to a 2-0 victory.
In order to create room for Keane, LA traded former DP Juan Pablo Ángel to Chivas USA. Angel had originally signed with the Galaxy in the off-season and created reasonable hope for the club to capture their first MLS Cup title since 2005. However, with only three goals and one assist in 22 matches, his limited offensive production alongside Donovan and Beckham was ultimately not enough to keep the Galaxy from finding a bigger fish in a larger pond.
With the Galaxy also competing in CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) ‘Group Stage’ action, it would not be a surprise to see ‘Los Galacticos’ use their bench to keep their regular starting XI rested in a juggling act between MLS and CCL competition. This past Tuesday night, LA suffered a disappointing – and controversial – 2-1 loss to Monarcas Morelia of the Mexican Primera División. The loss dropped the Galaxy’s CCL ‘Group Stage’ round-robin record to 2W-1L-0D and with another CCL match coming up next Wednesday, September 21, how head coach Bruce Arena juggles the lineup remains a question heading into Saturday’s match. They do, however, also need to continue racking up points to cement their place atop the table and win the 2011 Supporter’s Shield as MLS regular season champions.
Whatever lineup LA Galaxy send out on Saturday evening, the ‘Caps will no doubt need to play a strong match to defeat the top team in the league and claim their first road victory of the season. And while the attention will surely be on the deadly combination of Donovan-Keane and possibly Beckham, the ‘Caps know that – for a team that’s generally had smooth sailing all year – the Galaxy surely possess even more quality then what meets the eye.