The New England Revolution are poised to take on the LA Galaxy tomorrow night on national television at 11:00 PM EST, taking another crack at breaking their long-standing winless streak on the West Coast. The Revs are fresh off of their first win of the season, a creditable 1-0 victory over Portland. LA, meanwhile, had last weekend off after a grueling set of matches that included two league tilts and a home-and-home series in the CONCACAF Champions League against Toronto FC, which they lost.
Los Angeles is the defending MLS champion, and the depth in that squad suggests a very possible repeat. The Revs, on the other hand, are the incumbent bottom-dwellers, saved from the league Wooden Spoon by Vancouver's 2011 ineptitude. However, the news that Landon Donovan may not feature has to be great news for New England, because even with outstanding performers like David Beckham, Robbie Keane, Edson Buddle, Juninho, et al., Donovan remains the Galaxy's talisman. Without him, they are truly a different team.
Today's Q&A is a special deluxe edition. Both Josie Becker and Kayla Knapp of LAG Confidential answered my questions, and I will provide both sets of answers. Josie posted my answers to her questions over at the Galaxy blog. Check out our side after the jump.
TBM: LA had last week off following a grueling set of games over a short period of time, in which the Galaxy were eliminated from the CONCACAF Champions League by Toronto FC. In some way, do you think that losing out on the CCL will benefit the Galaxy in their title defense this season, either by reducing the number of games played or by solidifying priorities?
JB: I've said a version of this many times, in many ways; and no it's not Merry Christmas. The Mexican Primera Division season is in synch with CONCACAF Champions League. MLS, is out of synch with CCL. While RSL in 2011 and now TFC in 2012 have made decent runs of it, neither of those teams have situations that line up with the Galaxy's. LA was trapped in a competition they qualified for in 2010, after winning the MLS Cup in a grueling playoff stretch in 2011. Absolutely this will help the Galaxy going forward as they try to repeat as MLS Champions and win their third straight Supporters' Shield. However, doing both those things will likely torpedo their 2012-13 CCL season because MLS teams are not deep enough to 1) win the league 2) win CCL and 3) loan players out in the offseason to help balance the books.
KK: Getting knocked out of the CCL, especially by Toronto FC, was certainly a huge blow to morale among players and coaches. Winning the CCL was the highest priority for the Galaxy going into the 2012 season. That being said, of course in the long run, as far as defending their title this season, it will be beneficial. A lighter schedule will reduce the risk of injury and exhaustion. And now, the focus is on repeating as Supporters' Shield winners and MLS Cup Champions. For those goals, not playing in the CCL anymore will be a good thing, but overall, getting knocked out puts a huge dent in LA's goals for 2012.
TBM: With Landon Donovan, David Beckham, and Robbie Keane, there can be little doubt that LA is the glamor squad of MLS; more importantly, though, all three of LA's designated players produce at a very high level. Now that Keane will theoretically have a full season to connect with his teammates, how do you foresee the three of them working together this season, and do you believe that they (along with Edson Buddle) can create the explosion of offense that may be necessary to offset the loss of Omar Gonzalez?
JB: Everyone remembers the glamour moment between those three, when Landon Donovan scored the winning goal in the MLS Cup with Robbie Keane and David Beckham assisting. Whether it's Robbie Keane with a brace (like against DC United), Donovan doing likewise, or David Beckham with two assists, there is a good amount of offense to be created. The Galaxy style since Bruce Arena arrived, however, has not been to score three, four goals a match. The emphasis is on control, which is why losing Gonzalez' ability to control the opposition hurts the Galaxy more than any addition to offensive explosion. The team's style isn't to push three men forward and go nuts, no matter how many pundits may want that to be the case. Keane is really the key, if he finishes like he did against DC (and not like he did against TFC) that frees us Beckham, Donovan and Juninho to be creators, and frees up Buddle to poach some goals on the back end.
KK: Having the star power of Landon Donovan, David Beckham and Keane is great for getting fans to the stadium, but doesn't mean a thing if they can't get results. Hopefully having Keane for the full season will definitely help him mesh better with his teammates, and produce better results offensively. That explosive offense will be the key to LA's success this season; until Tommy Meyer (or Andrew Boyens) starts to get comfortable in the backline, LA will struggle defensively. LA will give up more goals this season than last, but as long as the midfield and forwards can offset that by scoring a lot of goals, the Galaxy will win games. As far as Edson Buddle goes, I haven't been impressed with him overall. It is early in the season, but his touch is heavy and his movement off the ball is lacking. Hopefully he settles in and starts to have better performances. If he can do that, LA's offense will be unstoppable.
TBM: Give us an under-the-radar player that Revolution fans should watch out for in this match.
JB: In this match is a tough one, since the Galaxy have been using the core of this lineup for over a year now. I'd say Revs fans should hone in the play of either Andrew Boyens or Tommy Meyer in the second Center Back spot. How that position goes has been how the team goes thus far in competition.
KK: If he plays, watch out for Marcelo Sarvas. He is quick, feisty and can rocket a shot from any distance, at any moment. He's a firecracker.
TBM: Who do you think the Galaxy fear most on the pitch for New England?
JB: I'm excited to see what Lee Nguyen does on the pitch. A quick winger could give the Galaxy back line fits as proper depth has been an early issue for the defensive end of the team. He seems like a guy who can find space in a tight defense, and well the Galaxy have had a loose defense up to this point. Could easily find himself with some good chances.
KK: The ever-consistent, always dangerous, Shalrie Joseph.
TBM: Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and a scoreline prediction.
JB: Saunders; Dunivant, DeLaGarza, Meyer, Franklin; Donovan, Juninho, Beckham, Sarvas; Keane, Buddle - 3-1 Galaxy (the Revs haven't won west of the Mississippi since 2009, come on).
KK: Starting XI: Saunders; Franklin, Meyer, DeLaGarza, Dunivant; Magee, Juninho, Beckham, Donovan; Buddle, Keane
Score: LA Galaxy 2, NE Revolution 1