Friday, June 10, 2011
GALAXY: Movement key with Donovan gone
By Scott French
The Galaxy's motto all year has been about depth, that they can succeed no matter who's on the field, and their results provide plenty of evidence. Despite missing all three of their Designated Players on occasion, as well as several key figures not making anywhere near seven figures, L.A. is 8-2-5 and targeting successive Supporters' Shields as Major League Soccer's regular-season champion.
The Galaxy weren't so good last week yet claimed a point in a 0-0 draw with D.C. United, which provided a blueprint for the rest of the league with its approach to defending L.A. when Landon Donovan is away, as he is now for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
It's a lesson struggling Toronto FC might want to take to heart Saturday night at Home Depot Center. The Galaxy certainly will -- they'll need better movement, both off the ball and of the ball, to counter the attention David Beckham can expect to receive, especially with fellow central midfielder Juninho missing.
D.C. United deserved all three points after shutting down the Galaxy's fatigued attack, accomplished by putting two defenders on Beckham, denying him space and time to connect with teammates, who mostly were just standing around.
"You know, the biggest thing was the [lack of] movement," Beckham said. "If you have movement in the game, then it creates space, it creates chances. ... It wasn't so much fitness, it was the [heavy] travel, the [loaded schedule] that we'd played, and maybe we had some tired legs out there. That then goes into your performance.
"There's no movement, there's no stepping into spaces where it makes the game easier to play."
Beckham was forced to drop deep in search of space -- too deep, really -- and without his service, the Galaxy had nothing. They thrive on Beckham's and Donovan's (and Juninho's) abilities to link teammates, dominate mismatches and keep up the pressure on opposing defenses, and if Toronto can quiet the English superstar as D.C. did, half the battle is won.
"I think it was just a consequence of [D.C.] marking me the way they did," Beckham said. "They kept the ball away from me, which was obviously their plan. On other occasions, you can get out of those positions, but as a team, we didn't play well, so we didn't combat that."
He expects a fuller performance against Toronto from L.A., which expects to have striker Juan Pablo Angel back after he missed back-to-back matches and promises to be better prepared after a week of training that Beckham described as "night and day" vs. last week's preparations.
LOWLY REDS: Forget that Sporting Kansas City has MLS's worst record -- 10 road games to start the season had plenty to say about that -- the consensus is that TFC is the worst team in the league, and that includes the expansion teams. The Reds have been poor to, at best, mediocre since they arrived in 2007, as Galaxy left back Todd Dunivant knows first-hand. He spent part of 2007 and all of 2008 in Toronto.
Dunivant was asked if he was surprised Toronto has never qualified for the MLS postseason. "Not really," he replied. "I wish they would. That's an incredible market in Toronto, and I wish they would reward those fans, because those are some of the best fans in the league, and they come out and support them despite the results. That's a market that MLS needs to succeed."
The Reds (2-5-7) already have a minus-10 goal difference this season -- worse than their season totals every year but their first -- and have been horrid on at least three occasions this season and not good on several others.
"You can't take any team for granted," Beckham said. "It doesn't matter how poorly they've been playing, what position they're in in the league. It doesn't matter. I've learned that over the years. You think you're playing against a team not as good as you, in the same class as you, and it can get you in trouble."
MISSING: Juninho is in Brazil getting married. ... Donovan (U.S.) and goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts (Jamaica) are at the CONCACAF Gold Cup. ... Forward Jack McBean is in final preparations with the U.S. team for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico. ... Center backs Leonardo and Sean Alvarado are out for the year because of torn knee ligaments. ... Angel is on the injury list as “questionable” because of a “calf strain,” but he says his injury is a twisted ankle and that he expects to play.
WORTH NOTING: The Galaxy's record vs. TFC is only 3-2-4 (2-1-1 at HDC), and they've drawn the last three meetings, going scoreless April 13 in Toronto. ... Beckham, who served a suspension earlier this year for yellow-card accumulation, is on the verge of a second ban. If he's cautioned Saturday, he will miss next week's game at MLS Cup champion Colorado. ... Beckham's seven assists are No. 2 in MLS, one off Houston winger Brad Davis' total. Becks has 23 in 61 career MLS regular-season games. ... Toronto has been poor in dead-ball situations, with one goal from a free kick (plus one penalty kick). The Galaxy has 10 set-piece goals, including three PKs. ... Beckham on a reunion with former Galaxy forward Alan Gordon, who could be returning from injury this week.: "He's just been resting the last two weeks so he can play against us. ... No, it's great to see Gordo back. He scored some great goals [for us], and he's a great guy. I hope our fans give him a little bit of abuse, and I'm sure one of us will kick him, but we'll be friends after the game."
Aron Winter, brought in over the offseason to rebuild the hapless Reds, was a top central midfielder for the Dutch national team (84 caps, two World Cups, three European Championships) and for clubs in Holland (Ajax Amsterdam, Sparta Rotterdam) and in Italy (Lazio, Inter Milan). He joined Toronto FC after serving as an assistant coach at Ajax.
Three key players
Teenage Ecuadoran forward Joao Plata stands just 5 feet 3, but he might be the most exciting newcomer in the league. He couples first-class footwork with creative skills and the speed and vision to slice apart defenses on the run.
Swiss-born, NorCal-raised, Cal-educated Stefan Frei, 24, is MLS's best young goalkeeper, has been since snaring a starting spot as a rookie in '09.
Brazilian forward Maicon Santos never really found his footing while with Chivas USA, but he's been critical to Toronto FC's attack, scoring four goals the last half of last season and a team-best five this year.
Toronto FC's bleak history has raised the ire of its faithful supporters and spurred owner Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment to start over, bringing in a new management team (led by Winter and former New England assistant coach Paul Mariner), which has revamped the roster. It's a work in progress, to say the least. TFC has won just twice in 14 games, is on a six-game winless streak and has been embarrassingly awful in three of five losses. There is some talent on the roster, not enough to compete weekly with MLS's elite, and any fruits of Winter and Mariner's efforts won't be tasted until next year at the earliest.
Gordon, a Long Beach-born forward, was acquired from the Goats just before the start of the season. He was with Chivas for less than a year but spent the previous six years with the Galaxy. … Maicon Santos scored three league goals in a season and a half with Chivas in 2009-10. … Defender Dan Gargan spent two weeks with Chivas in 2008 before an abrupt but short-lived retirement. … Midfielder Nathan Sturgis started his pro career with the Galaxy in 2006-07, and defender Ty Harden was a rookie starter for L.A. in 2007. … Team consultant Juergen Klinsmann lives in Huntington Beach.
Midfielder Julian de Guzman (Canada) and defender Dicoy Williams (Jamaica) are at the Gold Cup. … Defender Adrian Cann is out for the year after tearing an ACL in practice last week. Defender Nana Attakora (quad strain) and midfielder Elbekay Bouchiba (returning from knee surgery) also are out. … Gordon and midfielder Gianluca Zavarise (both adductor strains), midfielder Jacob Peterson (hamstring strain), midfielder Matt Stinson (calf strain) and forward Alen Stevanovic (adductor tightness) are listed as questionable. … Maicon Santos isn't on the list, but he was held out of practice earlier this week with “some pain” somewhere.
At Home Depot Center (Carson), 7:30 p.m. TV: Prime Ticket
Radio: K-Talk (KTLK-AM/1150, English) and ESPN Deportes (KWKW-AM/1330, Spanish)
Referee: Mark Kadlecik