With the Seattle Sounders hosting the LA Galaxy for the first time in 2014, it was time to ask Sounder at Heart just what has been going right in Puget Sound. I also fielded questions from them about what the Galaxy have been up to in their home by the Dominguez Channel. Here are my answers to question about Landon Donovan as CAM, Gyasi Zardes figuring things out, and the LA back line.
1 - What's going on with converting Landon Donovan to a CAM?
Donovan at the point of the lance has been the subject of much consternation, not to mention wailing and gnashing of teeth. On some levels the concerns are valid, in six appearances as an attacking midfielder Donovan has no goals and no assists. Not exactly a Javier Morales level of performance. His best position has been forward, where he has three goals and two assists.
So, you say, just put Donovan at forward with Robbie Keane and go nuts. The issue there is you're effectively putting Zardes back on the bench as he's not the best midfield option, his passing hasn't developed like his shooting has, and he shows so much promise when allowed to get minutes and figure this whole soccer thing out.
Stefan Ishizaki has two goals and an assist as a CAM, but that was typically with Donovan at forward and we're back at the Zardes problem. So the Galaxy are stuck with Donovan where he's at in the hopes that Zardes can pay off his full potential. Now about that Zardes guy...
2 - Gyasi Zardes shift to forward has unlocked a goal machine. Tell us about this young man.
From the moment at the MLS Superdraft where he told fans he was going to blow our minds with his skills, sales of Magneto helmets have gone through the roof. Fortunately for those who found the helmet store sold out, Zardes had a typical rookie season. Adjusting to a full season and the speed of play at the professional level took time. It also took Bruce Arena time to find his natural position.
He's got five goals as a forward this year in six appearances. Holy conversion rate Batman! That's really been the key. His first stint as a forward was a disaster as he felt the need to take every available shot like it was still college and he'd get like seventy-thousand opportunities a game.
Now he's come to see the ball as the precious, life giving object that it is. Over two matches last week, all his shots were on target with almost half of them resulting in goals. Zardes has discovered selectivity, waiting for his moment, making runs without the ball. It's exciting.
3 - How can a defense that doesn't have a healthy Omar Gonzalez and shifted AJ to fullback defend the combo of Oba and Clint?
Omar Gonzalez just returned to full training this week after the Galaxy pulled a 2011 Sounders against United, so we'll see how fit he is once things get going. The question becomes whether Bruce Arena risks him on the playing surface which shall not be named, or if it's a young combo that takes the pitch against Oba and Clint.
The young combos have done well in Gonzalez' absence, and the consistency is admirable, especially keeping a clean sheet against Real Salt Lake. However, it'd be foolish to think they wouldn't meet their match in the Sounder duo. My personal feeling for this matchup is either it's a tight affair with both teams dealing with elements of fatigue, or there's a dam break moment and it gets out of hand.
Significant Absences: David Beckham
Projected Lineup: Penedo; DeLaGarza, Meyer, Gonzalez, Rogers; Juninho; Sarvas, Ishizaki; Donovan; Zardes, Keane