We're a couple hours away from kickoff, and we talked to Josie Becker of SBN's Los Angeles Galaxy blog LAG Confidential. To see the questions we answered, check out their story here on Jermaine Jones, Lee Nguyen, the New England Revolution defense and Bobby Shuttleworth.
TBM: AJ DeLaGarza missed the second leg against Seattle due to an injury and Juninho left that game with an injury, so what's the status of those two players for the final?
LAGC: Both DeLaGarza and Juninho are expected to be available for the final. Much of A.J. DeLaGarza being held out of the Seattle match had to do with surface and conditions, which you saw how they affected Alonso in that same game. An extra week to rehab that hamstring plus ideal conditions out there means DeLaGarza should be good to go.
Juninho's in-game injury also appears to have been situational leading to a precautionary removal from the match. Still, those precautionary removals have a strange tendency of ending up more serious than was implied so if there's any player I wouldn't be surprised to see held from the eighteen man lineup; it's Juninho.
TBM: Okay, we all know that Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, and Gyasi Zardes are good at soccer, but if there's another player that's just as important to LA's attack as those three, who is it?
LAGC: Marcelo Sarvas is the often overlooked piece of that attacking puzzle. Of the ten outfield players, the Galaxy tend to use seven in the attack with the overlap of the fullback on whichever flank LA is progressing down. The three main attackers are the first wave, but as possession extends that second wave of attackers has Sarvas coming up through the middle.
There are the long range shot opportunities like when DeLaGarza went short against Seattle in Los Angeles and Sarvas got that match's lone goal. There are also the opportunities in the penalty area on the run, like happened at home against Salt Lake where Sarvas received a low cross and had the quick touch for a goal.
On longer possessions, Sarvas as a threat in the middle as a secondary run is a legitimate threat and often overlooked.
TBM: Robbie Rogers transitioned to left back this year, but how has he done on the defensive end and how does he match up against Teal Bunbury?
LAGC: Teal Bunbury getting past Rogers and taking on Gonzalez or Leonardo in emergency duty is something no Galaxy fan is looking forward to. The good news is that Robbie Rogers has managed to transform himself into a mighty fine defender.
It's not the polished position of a long-time veteran, but he has shown great skill at winning back balls and pushing upfield. The Galaxy aren't the type to go all in trying to win the ball back immediately, they'll let a team set up their offense preferring to wait until the opportunity to win the ball presents itself.
That means the fullbacks and Juninho as the more defensive CM have to pounce on 50/50 balls and bad first touches then get the ball immediately forward. Rogers' seven interceptions against Seattle in the second leg, six of which happened in the second half, had a great deal to do with LA being able to put the pressure on Seattle that earned that away goal and kept Seattle from getting a go ahead goal to wrap up the series.
TBM: The Galaxy have mostly used a 4-4-2, which seems perfect for Lee Nguyen's attacking style and getting between the defense and midfield. Will the Galaxy alter their formation and add holding midfielders or is their midfield not as flat as the starting lineup graphic says it is?
LAGC: Don't mistake Bruce Arena's 4-4-2 for a static formation of players stuck to foosball rods. It has more to do with creating groups of four players defensively, but central midfielders and fullbacks are constantly switching between the levels. That space between the midfield and the defense is an area patrolled by players looking to win balls and spur the offense into action.
Arena will not alter the formation at this point, holding will be largely the responsibility of Juninho. LA's philosophy is more about getting the right partnerships to control the various zones on the field than it is to rigidly stick to ones position.
TBM: I've long touted Jaime Penedo dating back to the 2005 Gold Cup with Panama and I loved that signing for LA when it happened, but he was bad last week against the Sounders, what happened and how does he rebound from what seems like a rare bad day?
LAGC: Penedo's issues tend to step from the feet up, he's not the best at positioning and thus can find himself caught in less than ideal positions to make necessary saves. Watch someone like Tim Howard who is great at making himself large on the goal line versus watching Penedo who tends to be all arms, and you can see how Penedo would let a goal sneak underneath him on the bounce.
The benefit of Juninho is that his split second decisions can make up for his positioning, but goals on strange bounces will happen.