Ahead of tonight's match between the LA Galaxy and Vancouver Whitecaps, we asked three questions of SB Nation blog 86 Forever to get a sense of the Whitecaps going into this one. With a home and home series between these two teams coming up, knowing strengths and weaknesses is going to be terribly important with six inner-conference points on the line. First up, my questions for them, followed by their questions for me:
1) The red card last week, Matias Laba was sent off. Was the card deserved, and how is that going to affect the lineup this week?
1) It was a second yellow, and it was totally deserved. It seemed a bit innoccous, but at the end of the day, you don't stop playing until the whistle. It's that simple. Laba is a young kid, and perhaps it's a good thing he learned this lesson. Unfortunately, it also means the Whitecaps will be without him against the Galaxy, and historically, the 'Caps haven't exactly been stellar against you guys. I mean, the 'Caps absolutely crumbled without him against the Rapids. Granted, they were at 10 men, but they still looked awful. Hopefully a week of practice and a healthy Nigel Reo-Coker can remedy that situation. Reo-Coker was tripped up by that rogue bicycle rack a few weeks ago and suffered a concussion, but it looks like he's ready to slot in now.
2) Darren Mattocks, what's going on there? It took five matches to get a goal, is he back now?
2) Well, he's actually been looking pretty good this season, although the stats obviously aren't there. He's been working his butt off and getting plenty of chances, but his lack of finish has been a problem dating back to last season as well. That being said, the 'Caps are hoping that the floodgates will open now after he scored his first against the Rapids last week. He's developed a hint of chemistry with veteran Kenny Miller, and it would be nice to see other offensive cogs in the machine like Pedro Morales, or Russell Teibert join in on the fun as well.
3) This is LA's second back to back series this season. How do you feel about home and away conference match-ups so early in the season?
3) I'm not sure it has the same intensity that it could've had later in the season. Other than that, I don't think it's a big deal. The travel is pretty light for the 'Caps, so I don't think they mind too much, although the Galaxy have had their number since the 'Caps joined MLS.
Lineup (prediction): Ousted, Beitashour, O'Brien, Demerit, Harvey, Koffie, Reo-Coker, Morales, Teibert, Mattocks, Miller.
Score: The road is not a friend to the Whitecaps, and neither are the Galaxy. 2-1 LA.
1) The galaxy unveiled a new formation against Chivas last week, and according to this article (http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/2014/04/08/la-galaxys-new-diamond-midfield-formation-difficult-defend-may-be-here-stay) it looks like it might be here to stay. Is the midfield diamond the best formation for the Galaxy to use?
I wrote my own article on the diamond situation (http://www.lagconfidential.com/2014/4/9/5595784/LA-Galaxy-diamond-midfield-robbie-keane-friend). I'm not ready to give a better or worse tag to the diamond. In the reading I did it seems globally the diamond has been more of a stopgap formation outside of Argentina where it's the classic look of their sides. I know RSL has used it with continual success, but my concern is it doesn't address LA's issues getting wide.
Clearly if it works the way it did against Chivas, the diamond is the greatest thing ever. Stringing together thirty-three straight passes is nothing to shake a stick out. However, Chivas were putting so many men behind the ball that LA was able to go about their passing unchallenged. I'd be concerned about teams like Seattle that put a lot of pressure on the ball and can send it in from the flanks.
2) Stefan Ishizaki has been the talk of MLS after his performance against the Goats. At 31 years old, how big of a role is he expected to play for the Galaxy this year?
With Gyasi Zardes and Robbie Rogers both dealing with injuries, Ishi has had to step into the system and make a difference right away. He's great on the ball, and that goal he scored against Chivas showed great field awareness. He got to play the point of the diamond against the Goats, and it really let him play on the same level as Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane who dropped back to work with him.
When LA get back their players who like to hug the touchline, it'll be interesting to see if they find themselves on the outside looking in. Whether as the attacking midfielder or playing as one of the central midfielders, I like what Ishizaki's experience is giving the attack.
3) The Galaxy have certainly had the 'Caps number throughout the 'Caps brief history in MLS, but Vancouver managed to turn the tide a bit last May with their first ever win against the side. Is this viewed as an actual rivalry now, or do the 'Caps have to start winning some matches consistently against LA to earn that?
Why does every team want to call their series with LA a rivalry? Vancouver is literally an entire country and a national border away from Los Angeles, why would they be a rival? The Whitecaps are a team in the Western Conference and that's the conference in which the Galaxy play. That's about the extent that goes.