With Real Salt Lake taking on the LA Galaxy on Saturday, I've asked Josie Becker of LAG Confidential to fill us in on the state of the Galaxy. We touch on attacking options outside of Beckham, Juninho, Donovan and Keane; on the Galaxy and RSL's midfield, and why the Galaxy don't consider RSL their biggest rivals.
RSL SOAPBOX: Besides your obvious weapons in attack, what about LA Galaxy's game play is the most threatening to RSL?
LAG CONFIDENTIAL: Well if we're ruling out attack, then the focus has to go to the backline. Omar Gonzalez' return has had the immediate affect of returning the Galaxy backline to the form they were enjoying last season. The clean sheets returned, and his imposing physical presence has kept the ball out the the penalty area. The mistakes have been significantly lessened as well.
Which is why the injury to A.J. DeLaGarza is so impactful. Everyone remembers the struggles the Galaxy had with Gonzalez out. DeLaGarza and Gonzalez can just look at each other and they know exactly where they're supposed to go. Tommy Meyer is the one everyone is assuming will start for DeLaGarza, which would be nice since the rookie is more likely to take direction from Gonzalez than any of the alternatives. However, Bruce Arena seems to have an irrational love affair with David Junior Lopes who is a notorious mistake maker who doesn't take direction well.
If the Galaxy can plug the leak, the centerback combo will continue to be their biggest threat behind the famous offensive trio.
How will the Galaxy look to break down RSL's midfield?
David Beckham always means a lot of long balls over the top, but in his absence the Galaxy started playing balls along the ground, stringing along 10-15 passes in some cases just waiting for the opposing defense to show a weak point. With Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, and now Christian Wilhelmsson all accomplished dribblers and shots, this style worked out so long as the passes were accurate.
Wilhelmsson gives the Galaxy an added presence on the wings, so look for David Beckham and Marcelo Sarvas to be the ones in charge of getting the ball through the midfield. Beckham will look up into the box, Sarvas will look to get the ball out onto the wings or into the center with Juninho. If RSL's backline gives Juninho enough space he will let loose a rocket.
Given the importance of the games played between these two sides over the past few years, what is the state of the rivalry between the two? Some RSL fans have called it our biggest, most important rivalry — is there similar opinion on your side of the fence?
The Galaxy are the most successful MLS club this side of the Mississippi. It could have been San Jose but they couldn't get a stadium built and moved to Houston so what are you going to do. So the Galaxy should have had a main rival in San Jose but things got a bit broken up. In those years where there were no Earthquakes, the rivalries with Chivas and RSL intensified and when Seattle joined the league that rivalry intensified as well.
It's not that the Galaxy have a rivalry with RSL, it's that the Galaxy are the West's best franchise and so every other good club has to measure themselves against the Galaxy. It's like the Yankees in baseball or the Patriots in football. The Yankees bring a great atmosphere everywhere they go, and it goes without saying everyone wants to beat the Yankees, but the Yankees aren't rivals with the Seattle Mariners even if the games have great atmosphere.
Prestige wise, the Galaxy's rival is DC United. Galaxy and RSL have been vying for best in the West these past few years, but clearly San Jose is the team everyone has to beat this year. San Jose is the Galaxy's biggest rival, it just took San Jose awhile to remember who they are.