On Sunday the New England Revolution kick off the 2011 season against the Los Angeles Galaxy in Carson, California. Inspired by similar posts on several other SB Nation blogs, for the rest of the season we will be running a "Know Thy Enemy" series where we find a blogger or journalist covering the Revs' opponent and ask him or her a few questions.
Typically, this blogger will be on the SB Nation network and thus have a similar post where we answer questions, but in this case there is no such companion post.
1.) Give us your opinion on Tuesday night's performance. How do you think it will affect the team going into Sunday?
I think that overall the Galaxy's performance was what it should be in the first game of the season. The game itself was a little sloppy. But the Galaxy did a good job in controlling the emotion and taking advantage of the opportunities at hand. Obviously missing 3 Starters (Omar Gonzalez, Juan Pablo Angel, Donovan Ricketts) was certainly a worry going into the match, and I think that worry continues going into this next game against New England, but it says a lot about the team that they were able to go into a very hyped atmosphere and shut down a good team like Seattle. I would imagine that being able to accomplish a tough road win without having your "best" team on the field should give fans and players confidence in the upcoming season. And what can you say about Juninho? His improvements throughout the course of the season last year was impressive. But you can now see him brimming with confidence. He has become a very dangerous player.
2.) Losing Edson Buddle is obviously a blow, and although Juan Pablo Angel looks to be a fine replacement, age certainly isn't on his side. Do you think the Galaxy's strike force is equipped to keep pace on the scoring charts this season, or will that be a weakness for this team?
Bruce Arena did a very good job at plugging the hole left by Edson Buddle. It was a surprise to everyone when he went to Germany to play for a second tier team. However, you couldn't ask for a more competent striker than Juan Pablo Angel. Consistency is his game. So he is a known commodity. Pairing him with another striker like newly acquired Chad Barrett was also part of Arena's master plan. But make no doubt about it, his ability to play every day is going to be put in question. He missed the Seattle game with "Flu Like" Symptoms. Being it's not an injury I think you just hope he recovers quickly and can play against New England on Sunday.
The scoring and where we get goals from is always a concern. And while I don't know that we can replace all the goals provided by Edson Buddle last year, I feel like the goals will come from a more collective group. I think that all the midfielders will get more involved and look for Juninho and Landon Donovan to have break out years. Landon says he hasn't felt this good since High School. That should make a lot of teams nervous.
3.) Give us an under the radar player whom you think will make a difference this Sunday.
With the Galaxy, over the last couple of years, it's always surprising who will make the biggest impact. But a person to watch is Chris Birchall. This is Birchall's first year with the club as the absolute #1 Starter in the midfield. He took over for Dema Kovalenko who announced his retirement after the Galaxy didn't renew his contract. Birchall, is one of those Defense midfielders who just works really hard. He does an excellent job of controlling the midfield and he allows the defensive wing players to move forward into the play. He isn't the physical presence that Kovalenko was, but he doesn't need to be. He is quick with his runs and is very decisive on the ball. His biggest asset is in shutting down the opposing midfield so that Juninho and the rest of the attacking Galaxy Midfielders can do their job!
4.) Who on the Revs side of the ball scares the Galaxy the most in this match?
This is always such a great question and one that is difficult to answer. You always have to name the obvious Shalrie Joseph. His ability to dominate a midfield is the greatest asset to the Revs. And I am not sure that I can name a matchup that I like against him. Birchall probably gives up too much size and quickness to Joseph, and Juninho has the speed and quickness but will never match the strength.
The thing about Joseph is his ability to make average players look great. He has great vision and I think the Galaxy defense will need to do a top quality job in order to keep New England off the score sheet.
I also worry that the Galaxy will be coming off of the high in Seattle and may be looking past this game. The Revs were able to punish us last year in a similar situation at New England. So I certainly hope that all 11 players come ready to play.
5.) Finally, what is your projected starting XI?
I think there is a very good Chance that Juan Pablo Angel will have recovered enough from being sick that he gets the start. So making the assumption that the other two Galaxy Starters that were hurt for Seattle Still don't see any time, I would have to go with the following:
Angel - Barrett
Donovan-Juninho - Birchall - Beckham
Dunivant - Leonardo - DeLaGarza - Franklin