The New England Revolution will be looking to erase the memory of a disheartening 2-1 defeat in San Jose when they take on the Los Angeles Galaxy at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro this Saturday night. The Galaxy will be playing their third match in seven days after picking up a gritty 1-0 win in Houston on Wednesday and feature the league's hottest goalscorer at the moment, Landon Donovan.
The Galaxy have great players and major threats all over the pitch. MLS leading goalscorer Landon Donovan and MLS assist leader David Beckham are the obvious weapons, but players like Chad Barrett, Juninho, and the threat of Omar Gonzalez on set pieces can't be counted out. Plus, they have a man by the name of Juan Pablo Angel, one of the most prolific forwards in MLS of the last four or five seasons, leading the line with Barrett and waiting for his opportunity to break out.
According to the last injury report, only Marko Perovic remains a definite scratch for Saturday. Ousmane Dabo was upgraded to doubtful, while Kenny Mansally and Stephen McCarthy (with a left shoulder "subluxation?") are questionable.
Today our Q&A is with Josh Guesman of the Corner of the Galaxy podcast and editor of the Section 108 blog.
TBM: Landon Donovan has been having a stupendous year, lighting up the scoring charts at a torrid pace and looks like he's practically running away with this season's MVP award. What's been the secret to Landon's renaissance as a goalscorer this season and how important is it to LA's title ambitions that he doesn't slow down?
JG: The Galaxy always seem to put themselves in a position to rely on one player to provide the offense. But the main reason Donovan has been put in the "Goal Scorer" position this year is because he isn't stuck being the distributor. For reasons I will discuss in the next question LD is on the end of a lot more of the attacks then he was last year. But let's not kid ourselves, one of his main jobs is to convert penalty kicks. So as much as the numbers can be inflated, his goal from the run of play are limited. Just don't give him a reason to stand at the spot and stare down Matt Reis... He rarely misses (MLS Cup 2009 still haunts Galaxy Fans though).
TBM: David Beckham is always a point of contention for Galaxy and MLS fans alike. Despite questions of his commitment to the team and league and his tendency to place his England career or, more recently, the royal family and his friends in England over his responsibilities stateside, there's been little doubt that his presence in the team this season has been a factor in LA's success. Will he be crucial to the Galaxy's chances at a result in New England, or do you think his impact on the starting XI is overrated by his celebrity?
JG: In my opinion, you always have to separate David into soccer player and celebrity. Because of his excellent play on the field he gained that celebrity, but they are still different people. I am going to say this as clearly as I possibly can - David Beckham is having his best season ever as a Galaxy player, and he seems to be getting better not worse as the season goes on. Put aside the fact he seems to get amnesia about who he plays for when London calls, David Beckham is a crucial part of this offense and one of the main reasons the Galaxy have gotten off to the start they have. Can the Galaxy play without him? Yes. But only because of our depth. You remove a player of his caliber from a Toronto team and they wouldn't be able to cope with it. He still has the heart to win and that's what you count on as both a Galaxy Fan, and a David Beckham supporter.
TBM: Give us an under-the-radar player Revs fans should look out for in this match (note: last time you chose Chris Birchall).
JG: Chris Birchall huh? Well, if he got more playing time I would stand by my original suggestion. However, being he sees more pine than Paul Bunyan, I would say pay attention to our back line. Everyone knows about Omar Gonzalez (Rookie of the Year), Sean Franklin (Rookie of the Year) and possibly even about AJ DeLaGarza, but the real under the radar player on this backline is Todd Dunivant. Why no one pays attention to him is behind me? I argue he is currently the best left back in the league. Todd presses forward into the attack and plays a vital role in the offense. But he is also rock solid on defense. He never make the "panic move" that leads to a penalty kick, and he knows how to take his angles and play the faster players toward the touch line. Definitely a player to watch.
TBM: Who do you think the Galaxy fear most on the pitch for New England?
JG: Last time I said Shalrie Joseph, and mostly because, looking at the Revs at the start of the year there wasn't a ton to be afraid of. But with New England adding Benny Feilhaber to the roster, that one, two combination seems to be picking up some traction. I really like the battle in the midfield this is going to provide. I am not going to say this game is determined in the midfield, but it could be a large contribution to whomever wins this game. And the more Feilhaber plays, the more dangerous he is going to become. Whether that is scoring or distributing. This should lead to more Joseph goals as well.
TBM: Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and a scoreline prediction.
JG: Oh the ever rotating Galaxy Strikers... Up top I am going to go with Barrett and Lopez. Midfield is going to be Donovan, Juninho, Beckham, Magee. Back line is solid with Dunivant, DeLaGarza, Gonzalez, Franklin, and Donovan Ricketts in the net. But honestly, as I was going typing this, I realized I could miss 4 or 5 players out of the starting XI with playing 3 games in 8 days!
Score line is 2-1 Galaxy... I would have said 2-0 but you are playing at home and that should count for something!