The LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake kick of the 2014 MLS season last having met in a tense Western Conference semifinal which saw RSL take back the series 2-1 on aggregate during the home leg at Rio Tinto Stadium. The Galaxy were able to win two of the three regular season meetings between the two clubs last season, including a 4-2 victory in their only home match against RSL.
Preseason preparations went in different directions. The Galaxy only left Carson, CA to take a trip up the I-5 to Fresno, which was also one of only two bouts against MLS opponents. RSL entered the Desert Diamond Cup in Arizona and made it through to the finale where they drew 1-1 against Chivas USA. The Galaxy's last preseason warmup with a 2-1 victory in a closed door scrimmage against NASL's Minnesota United.
The details of that scrimmage with Minnesota United are still a mystery, which busts my minute tracker to a degree. For outfield players the most used back line was DeLaGarza, Gonzalez, Leonardo, and Riley. That's pretty much what I expect to see Saturday although Dunivant may be good to go. The attacking portion should be Donovan, Juninho, Sarvas, Zardes; Keane, Samuel but I would be surprised to see Friend over Samuel to take advantage of the experience. Goalkeeper should be Jaime Penedo, who had a minor preseason knock but is supposed to be fine.
My main concern with the midfielders in that lineup is the lack of a player that will draw out defenders. Donovan can certainly take players out wide, but then that means he's not combining with Robbie Keane in zone 18. Gyasi Zardes loves the middle, and when he's gone wide it's usually to chase down a route one ball from Todd Dunivant. Juninho draws out defenders due to his long range shot ability, but that's been an inconsistent tool.
RSL gave up a high number of goals last season relative to their finish. What they did well in the end was strategize against their playoff opponents. They've lost their architect in Jason Kreis, but this is still a club that can be dangerous no matter the recent form.
For LA, it's our first time to see if the offseason acquisitions change the offense enough to get Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan their opportunities back. Lack of a winger or a target forward last season really made the attack shut down when teams stayed in their zone and put extra men behind the ball.
What is needed is a target forward capable of moving without the ball, and a wide player who can make the final pass. When Donovan or Keane find themselves double teamed in zone 18, there needs to be a player making that perfect cut to get the attack moving again. There also needs to be a player out there with the vision to see who the targets are in the penalty area.
It's a whole brand spanking new MLS season. Everything old is new again. Let's get it started.