Ahead of the LA Galaxy vs. FC Dallas match, we've asked three questions of Dallas blog Big D Soccer. We talk replacing Michel, finally breaking the losing streak, and Perez' relative lack of production. I also answered some of their questions, on LA's slow start, possible reinforcements, and how low on the depth chart we can go:
1. FC Dallas has had to deal with a large number of injuries, now the news that Michel didn't travel with the club to Los Angeles. The sometimes midfielder, sometimes defender, was already trying to fill whatever holes he could, how does Dallas replace his versatility?
The quality of Dallas' bench is higher this year than it has ever been in North Texas. Add to that the fact that Oscar Pareja is unafraid to test his rookies and youth, and you realize that Dallas still has options. Each player brings different strengths to the field. This has been a topic of conversation with OP this week, and for all the features you lose when one player becomes unavailable, his replacement brings a new toolbox of different skills. With Michel, we lose the almighty left foot. Make no mistake about it: losing Michel will impact FCD's ability to score off the dead ball. Realize that more than half of Dallas' goals have come from set pieces, and this is a vital loss to the team.
In his place, expect to see Jair Benitez at left back. While he doesn't share Michel's dead ball service, Jair can put a decent cross in to the box. Jair also has brings improved speed off the ball and fewer turnovers. Michel's unavailability is a tough pill to swallow. The bigger problem though is the growing number of bodies on the injury report. If Michel's injury is a pill, looking at the injury report is the pharmacist handing you a literal chainsaw and glass of water.
2. Players responsible for eight of Dallas' twenty-one goals are unavailable, does this put the goalscoring burden entirely on Blas Perez' shoulder?
More and more questions are starting to come in about Blas. He is currently in a bit of a dry spell, which is typical for him. He runs hot or cold. It's been feast or famine goal production from the Panamanian since joining FCD. Michel currently holds the title for goals scored in 2014, and I'm sure Blas is itching to change that.
Blas isn't alone on the front line, of course, but he is the most capable and should be leading FCD's offensive efforts. Off season signings, David Texeira and Andres Escobar have each seen limited minutes as they adjust to a new league and country. The midfield flanks are capable of goal scoring also.
I would disagree that any one player should ever feel the full pressure of being the sole source of goals. However if any one player could be expected to step up through Dallas' winless streak, it would be the veteran.
3. Dallas finally ended their slide with a draw against Chivas. Was it the opponent, or did you see things in that match which hint at a turnaround?
I have to take the easy route and say it's a little of column A and a bit of column B. Dallas actually played better than the scoreline shows. Saturday was a gritty afair; by no means beautiful flowing soccer. Dallas had the lion's share of scoring chances against Chivas though, and poor finishing has been the theme of this slide. The silver lining is the energy and work that players returning from the bench put it. Tex and Escobar injected some much needed energy in the 2nd half, and Fabian Castillo's tireless running helped spark his equalizing goal. These things hint at better things to come. Unfortuately it will be a tough, tough task to fully turn this tide against LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake in Week 12. A draw is better than a loss, but FC Dallas needs an undeniable win more desperately than Gus Johnson. Until then, echoes of 2013 will continue to come calling.
1. With 1.13 Points Per Game, LAG is further from the basement than some will have you believe this week. However, 2 wins in 8 games is still unusual for the Galaxy. What has been behind the quiet start to 2014?
The points per game puts LA just behind Colorado in sixth overall, and it's worth mentioning that this weekday match is the first of two/three/four matches in hand that the Galaxy have on the rest of the Western Conference.
It really all comes down to a start stop schedule which has made it difficult for LA to get into a rhythm. Even before the Galaxy moved a match to adequately prepare for the Champions League tie they lost, there were already two planned weekends off. Couple that with a glut of injuries to key players and now the international absences and it just hasn't felt like there's been any continuity from week to week. It's a serious issue, and one I haven't seen Bruce Arena overcome yet.
2. With no berth to the 2014/2015 CCL for the first time in several years, only losing 2 players to the World Cup, and Bruce Arena's usual flippant effort in the US Open Cup - how important will it be for Arena to perform strongly in the MLS Regular Season and, eventually, the playoffs? LAG's focus is relatively narrow compared to previous years. Are there any rumors yet of reinforcements coming this summer?
The reinforcement rumors are thus far limited to a scenario wherein Omar Gonzalez is sold in the summer transfer window and an older European star is brought in. There may be some truth to these rumors as Gonzalez' flirtation with Liga MX is no secret, but until then it's hard to take any of the rumors too seriously.
It's terribly important that LA does well in the regular season. Bruce Arena being relieved of his job after winning two MLS Cups seems impossible, but the Galaxy organization has never been big on sentiment. Sigi Schmid was fired while in first place with an MLS Cup victory on his resume. Steve Sampson got the axe despite a double on his resume. If Arena can't get the Galaxy to the playoffs, there could be changes.
Does anyone really think the Galaxy are going to miss the playoffs though?
3. With Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez away for international duty, and a few other injuries, who will be the players that Bruce Arena will lean on who may be low on the depth chart?
LA has gone with two youngsters at the center back positions, Kofi Opare and Tommy Meyer, in order to get through Gonzalez' absence and an injury to Leonardo. Meyer got a few headlines while filling in at center back during the Galaxy's run through the 2012 MLS Cup playoffs, but wasn't seen much at all in 2013. Kofi Opare has jumped ahead of him in the depth chart, joining the team through the 2013 draft, and has more quickness to make up for the mistakes that young players will make.
Donovan is much tougher to replace, as the players who have parts of his skill set are already starting for LA. As a result, Bruce Arena has stuck to substituting forwards for unavailable midfielders going so far as putting Robbie Keane in the midfield after Donovan left. I don't think such a move is sustainable, so one of Gyasi Zardes or Robbie Rogers is going to have to step up over this next month. Rogers historically is closer to the distributor the Galaxy need, while Zardes is more of a traditional winger/foward. If Rogers were his historical self it wouldn't be an issue, but he just hasn't been that guy yet.