One of the talking points coming out the Galaxy's week playing in El Salvador and then against Seattle is that the current playoff format is going to require more than eleven players. Galaxy fans should expect a different lineup for each match, as keeping everyone fit for a three match a week pace is going to require rotation. However, looking at Opta stats and Beckham's comments shows us that's more about players filling in multiple roles, than it is reserves taking the pitch.
"It's great to obviously have options," said David Beckham. "It's great for Bruce to have options. Marcelo's obviously been in good form, but Edson's come in, he's played well, he can beat some people up there, and its good to have a player like him."
Sarvas came in for Beckham in the 62', playing pretty much the same role in that invisible box in the middle of the pitch, only showing up in the final 18 yards to take a corner kick. This was the role he played with Beckham out, that of holding midfielder. Against Real Salt Lake, Sarvas was on the left side but covered almost the entire pitch.
When Bruce Arena talks about needing to use multiple players to get through the playoffs, it's a player like Sarvas with such options that he's referring to. With Donovan up top Sarvas can play behind him, and with Donovan coming back and playing on the left Sarvas can shore up in the middle.
Do the Galaxy want Buddle up top? When Bruce Arena was questioned about the Buddle/Keane pairing he said that wasn't necessarily his forward pairing going forward. Despite Beckham's comment that Buddle can beat some people, it's not with the ball that he does this. Buddle didn't have a successful dribble on Sunday. He was tackled both times he tried to take on a defender, and was dispossessed two other times.
Buddle's strength is in getting behind people on possession plays within 25 yards. He isn't going to beat defenders in a footrace for a long ball, stumbling and falling on his face just as often as he can get on the ball and hold it.
"And them obviously with Landon's pace on the left and Christian's on the right," Beckham went on to say, "it gives us many options. It's worked well with where other players have played, but tonight I thought it looked good."
On Sunday, Arena went with Donovan and Wilhelmsson on the wings with Beckham and Juninho in the middle. Both outside midfielders are great at that winger role, getting up into the corners of the pitch and causing havoc. That pace causes central midfielders to come out of position to help, which opens up space in the middle.
Which is where Robbie Keane has lived as of late. With Donovan on the wing, Keane can act as a number 10 dropping back to get the ball to others. Keane had five passes that led to scoring attempts on Sunday, including the assist on Mike Magee's goal.
Looking at Beckham's comments as well as Keane's in conjunction with the Opta stats, I like Landon Donovan and Christian Wilhelmsson as wingers. This would mean Keane up top with a forward not named Donovan, but I would not suggest Buddle filling that role. Unfortunately, Buddle is who the Galaxy bet big on in the offseason.
So much of how the playoffs will go for the Galaxy will depend on the ability of the two forwards to play together up top. Sarvas going wide and Donovan playing up top with Keane is a good option, but I fear three DPs in the middle will play right into Vancouver's plan to park the bus in the middle.
Against San Jose, it won't be an issue. The Quakes don't need to be stretched, they just need to be stopped from scoring.