LA: Gyasi Zardes (knee), Giovani dos Santos (hamstring), Robbie Rogers (ankle), Ashley Cole (calf strain), Jelle Van Damme (red card)
RSL: Justen Glad (knee), Jordan Allen (quad strain), Joao Plata (hip contusion)
Expected LA Galaxy Lineup
LA: Rowe; Garcia, Steres, Romney, Smith; Lletget, Pedro, Husidic, Alessandrini; Boateng, McBean
Don't forget to read the full preview from Ryan Sanders.
The story so far
LA Galaxy have gotten off to their worst start in 16 years this season which is something Real Salt Lake fans may have some slight sympathy for (probably not, it's LA). It's not just the 2 losses but the injuries to four key starters and 3 suspensions over two games. Jones and Romney return to the squad for the trip to Utah but Van Damme is out after his red card at Portland. They've struggled to apply their effective play into a winning style and plenty of weight is being shouldered by young players.
So how do we win...
LA have looked at Sebastian Lletget and Giovanni Dos Santos to make the magic happen. This means that LA have played very centrally over the last two games, especially against Dallas. I don't expect this to change with Dos Santos being injured as they are hovering about 20 crosses per game over 90 minutes. However with almost 500 passes per game and an 84% passing accuracy they have managed to make the most of the ball in midfield.
This is where we have struggled and so the first thing I'd do is find a way to deal with this. Keeping Kyle Beckerman in the CDM role is a no brainer but I'd also start Luke Mulholland next to him. Luke can play in a deeper role while bringing a different style to Beckerman so we don't end up overloaded with defensive play but with no way of getting the ball forward. I'd be tempted to put Holness in as CM as well to make a three man group who can win the ball, pass the ball and have a player who can drift wide and break to exploit the lack of bite in the LA wings.
Should LA start with Jones and Lletget in midfield, that is a battle we just won't win in this state so getting numbers in the middle to put pressure on those players while having a release to the wings is key. I'd be looking at Beltran to come up higher in the field to help with attacking in the absence of Allen. I'd put Rusnak out on the right hand side to team with Beltran and Plata on the left, allowing him to cut inside when he could. I don't see Wingert overlapping so letting Plata play as an inside forward gives Yura a little help to finish the chances while I'd look for constant delivery from the right wing. I'm sour on Yura at the moment but I think it's too early to fully turn on him, so I'd start him as a true target man to either get on the end of crosses or invite Plata or Holness in to take some shots. We've struggled to get goals and Holness has shown a couple of times he has the ability to finish from distance which may help in this game.
Both Schuler and Maund are back in training now which makes for a very difficult choice. Maund had a little bit of a rough end to preseason performance wise, Schuler played very well against Toronto while Horst and Schmidt managed to put in a shift against Toronto and Chicago. In the end, I would give it to Schuler and Horst with Maund on the bench. If Aaron is going to be the key player in defence then he needs to be gently brought back in. Both of them need to cut the passing chances to McBean (the likely starter) and leave him stranded as the lone striker and team with Kyle to put pressure on a midfield that will be looking to produce very efficiently.
LA can pass the ball well but they aren't doing much with it. They too are struggling to find an identity without their superstars and to be blunt we won't ever face them weaker than this. I think of a team like Stoke when I see this kind of game, a team who swarm the player in possession and cut off all the space, forcing a turn over and breaking. So I'd have the squad apply pressure to the pass came and try kill it off as soon as we could, stopping the highly accurate distribution of the ball. It won't be hard to get them to play narrow as they have done this for the last two games but there needs to be pressure on the passing lane rather than diving into the tackle. Cut off direct routes to move the ball forward and make them play backward or take a risk. Defend high up the field and keep the space between McBean and the goal to a maximum.
When the ball comes to us, I'd look to get the ball out wide to either wing. On the right, take it to the byline and overlap to find a good cross to Yura, Plata or Holness. If it's the left I'd be looking at Mulholland and Plata to link up with Yura to move the ball forward quickly and to take a shot once the space was available. The play needs to be quick and it needs to be disciplined down to the lack of real creative players we have in the middle (we miss you Maestro!) to make sure we don't turn the ball over and get caught ourselves.
From set pieces, I'd say get the ball in the box and hope for a little luck. We've not been good enough on them but I don't see that changing. Sometimes you get a good bounce though and it's enough for a win.
Here's the formation:
The arrows are where I'd like the players to move in attack, with or without the ball. Plata working wide but cutting in with Yura, Rusnak and Beltran plahhing to the byline, Holness getting into that shooting zone while we still stay strong at the back. When defending I would look at something similar but more compact and more pressure on players in possession.
Am I right? Am I wrong? I don't know. It's easy to say how you'd do it when it's not your job and this is just my opinion. Football Manager makes it look so easy and I'm sure many of you have your opinions. Let us know how you'd go about beating LA below!