Ahead of the LA Galaxy's match against Vancouver Whitecaps FC, we're going to take a look at what the LA offense should expect from the Vancouver defense using Opta chalkboards. Much thanks to Armchair Analyst over at MLSsoccer.com for giving me a template on how to do such a thing.
Take a look here at LA's key passes and assists from the last time they faced Vancouver back at the beginning of September. Omar Gonzalez had returned, but Landon Donovan was still unavailable. Still, the Galaxy were able to play much the same game they did against San Jose. Nine passes there in the middle of the pitch, but one of those inside the penalty area.
That's the difference between the last match against Vancouver and the match against San Jose; the lack of key passes inside the penalty area. That shows that the Whitecaps were stuffing the box with defenders to prevent LA from getting inside.
Now look at Vancouver's key pass map. One key pass, one. That's beyond pathetic, and ties directly into the bunkering in narrative. The 'Caps can still come out like that on Thursday and in fact it's expected that they will. In tournaments it's known as playing for overtime, hoping that they can get through full time 0-0 then push against tired and older Galaxy legs.
Take a look at the 456 passes the Galaxy completed against Vancouver. Note how even when we extend the category back to all successful passes, the penalty box is squeaky clean. Now look at Vancouver's various defensive successes: interceptions, clearances and the like.
Note not only all those dots in the box (with six different players represented), but how at least 90% of it happens below the midway line. The LA Galaxy map shows a more spread out defensive attack, winning a good number of balls in the offensive half of the pitch.
The Galaxy are too powerful offensively to be held off by such a bunkered in attack, but it is going to dampen David Beckham's ability to hit players from the run of play. This is actually an area Edson Buddle can help with, he's over six foot and can get up to head in a cross.
Play up the middle is going to be difficult, so Juninho's ability from long range will come in handy. Unfortunately he tends to be streaky, so without a goal in awhile it's unlikely that LA is counting on him. Landon Donovan and Christian Wilhelmsson getting players out of the box and onto the wings will also go a long way to giving Robbie Keane and Buddle space to operate in the middle.