From one struggling team to the next. After beating the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field, the LA Galaxy come back home to StubHub Center to take on the Houston Dynamo. It's now two straight wins for the Galaxy, and on Friday they have the chance of making three straight against the penultimate side in the Western Conference standings.
The Galaxy are a far cry from the team we saw several weeks ago, where they radiated uncertainty at the back in late-game situations and failed to score goals. They have begun to flourish again, thanks in large part to the return of captain Robbie Keane. The fact of the matter is the Galaxy are a completely different side with their best attacking spearhead on the field. Keane is not getting any younger but this is still his team. In fact, unsurprisingly, the Galaxy have won every game Keane has scored in this season. That's five wins when Keane gets on the score-sheet, five out of the seven victories the Galaxy have in this current MLS campaign.
But Keane isn't the only player worthy of recognition. For all their enviable collection of brilliant attackers, the defense was always going to be a question mark for the Galaxy, especially after the departure of Omar Gonzalez to Pachuca. As such, there has been plenty of defensive work to do, and the last few games have been a hallmark of what good defending can look like for the Galaxy. Bruce Arena's side has managed a cleansheet in three of their last four games, and the impacts of A.J. DeLaGarza and Jelle Van Damme cannot be understated. There is also Brian Rowe in net, who has been a common fixture in goal.
This is all in large contrast to the Houston Dynamo. Their season has been anything but flourishing. In May, the club decided to part ways with manager Owen Coyle, leaving former San Jose Earthquakes defender Wade Barret as interim manager. Currently, the Dynamo have just one win in their last seven league games and arrive to this game on the back of a goalless draw with Orlando City SC. In total, the Dynamo have the worst away record in the Western Conference and are winless away from home.
As such, the Galaxy return to Southern California in search of consistency, something that has evaded them this season. Whatever the Galaxy's strengths or weaknesses, this certainly looks like an accessible part of the schedule for Bruce Arena's men. It's now up to them to keep their positive run going.
Houston Dynamo 1-4 LA Galaxy - April 15, 2016 - MLS Cup Playoffs
After conceding an early goal, Giovani dos Santos scored twice as the LA Galaxy clinched their first road win of the season with a 4-1 thrashing of the Dynamo.
LA Galaxy (4-2-3-1): Rowe; DeLaGarza, Steres, Van Damme, Cole; De Jong, Larentowicz; Zardes, Gerrard, dos Santos; Keane
Houston Dynamo (4-1-4-1): Deric; Anibaba, Horst, Rodriguez, Beasley; Warner; Barnes, Clark, Alex, Boniek Garcia; Bruin