There are only 90 minutes separating the LA Galaxy and the Colorado Rapids from a spot in the Western Conference Finals. Ahead of Sunday’s clash, they also have a 1-0 lead thanks to a Giovani dos Santos second half goal.
One of the big question marks surrounding this game is the altitude of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Sitting a touch under a mile high, the air is going to be thin. That is going to make everything harder on the Galaxy, who are used to playing and training essentially at sea level. Every run into the box, every run tracking back into the defense is going to take a little bit more energy than what they are used to.
With the altitude playing a factor, the Galaxy head into the match with a little more defensive approach. Obviously, this does not mean that they should not venture up the pitch, they absolutely should, but the Galaxy need to be patient with their attacking play.
Colorado, on the other hand, are also going to be taking chances in their final third of the pitch. The back four has got to be in constant communication with each other, tracking the runs of the Rapids speedy wingers, and the bruising Jermaine Jones. If the defense can match their performance from last week, then there is no reason why they cannot keep another clean sheet.
Bruce Arena used the same starting XI, between the Knockout Round, and the first leg of the Western Conference semi-finals. It seemed like that was first time in several months that everyone in the lineup kept their place. The chemistry among those starters shown through as they came away with the 1-0 advantage.
But, now, after a week off, does Arena change up his tactics going into such a tough environment? Does Robbie Keane finally get the start? What about Steven Gerrard? And if Gerrard plays, does Lletget take over for Donovan on the wings? There are so many different intangibles heading into Sunday’s match that the XI is really up in the air.